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The Lacuna Audiobook

The Lacuna

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Audible Editor Reviews

Barbara Kingsolver's new novel of Mexico and the Cold War is centered on “accidents of history”: how things turn out, and how easily they could have turned out otherwise. Both Kingsolver and her narrator Harrison Shepherd, who is a writer himself, are interested in history not for the marquee names but for the ordinary people swept up in the momentum of events. The Lacuna is made up of Harrison's notes and correspondence, beginning with his arrival at age 12 to the hacienda of a Mexican oil magnate and continuing through a youth spent as a cook in the employ of a radical painter couple in Mexico City. It's the 1930s, and the couple is, of course, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, soon to be joined in their contentious household by Trotsky and his retinue.

Harrison watches these luminaries from the safety of the kitchen while they work, fight, and try to keep the most famous political exile in the world safe from Stalinist assassins. Kingsolver is an excellent narrator of her own story, differentiating the voices with artful touches that never seem cartoonish. Harrison is quiet and sharp, with a retiring diction nearly drowned out by strident Frida. Lev Trotsky is serious but avuncular, taking the time, despite his heavy intellectual labors, to encourage the literary aspirations of the young cook.

But this tense little world-in-exile can't last. As Frida tells Harrison again and again, the most important thing about a person is the thing you don't know. The Cold War is starting. Spies do a lot of damage, and fear of spies does more. By the time Harrison returns to the United States, an agoraphobic bundle of nerves, McCarthy is rising. No former cook for a Communist can escape the notice of Hoover's FBI. The Lacuna is an examination of history, both what of happened and of how we reconstruct it. Too often, Harrison muses, we take the scraps that come down to us for the whole, “like looking at a skeleton and saying 'how quiet this man was, and how thin.'” Harrison Shepherd, as a writer and obsessive keeper of diaries, does his best to keep flesh on the bones of the past. Kingsolver shows how impossible this undertaking is, and how important it is to try. —Rosalie Knecht

Publisher's Summary

From the Mexico City of Frida Kahlo to the America of J. Edgar Hoover, The Lacuna tells the poignant story of a man pulled between two nations.

Born in the United States, but reared in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers and, one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed muralist Diego Rivera. When he goes to work for Rivera, his wife, exotic artist Kahlo, and exiled leader Lev Trotsky, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution.

Meanwhile, the United States has embraced the internationalist goodwill of World War II. Back in the land of his birth, Shepherd seeks to remake himself in America's hopeful image and claim a voice of his own. But political winds continue to toss him between north and south in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach - the lacuna - between truth and public presumption.

©2009 Barbara Kingsolver; (P)2009 HarperCollins Publishers

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (1127 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Judith Seaboyer 07-29-10 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a superb novel"

    In haste... I can't think when I was so swept away by a novel. A glorious play on the idea of narrative--history, fiction, the fictionality of history, the truths that the very best and most imaginative fiction can convey. I was hooked from the beginning, swept along by the story, but the prose is sos fine that I kept skipping back to replay a paragraph here, a paragraph there. I loved the characterisation of Kahlo and Trotsky, and of the protagonist. I tried to read The Poisonwood Bible years ago and I'm not sure I finished it, but The Lacuna is a masterpiece.

    And what made it perfect for me was Kingsolver's reading. Not often a writer is also so fine a performer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Maria L. Lantin Vancouver, BC Canada 07-11-10
    Maria L. Lantin Vancouver, BC Canada 07-11-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Amazing read"

    This book was first recommended to me by a good friend. She had read the book, not listened to the audio version. When I looked at the reviews for the audio version I was a bit taken aback by the polarized opinions on the reader. I decided to take a chance after hearing the sample. I am so glad I did. This is by far my most cherished audio book so far. The author does a marvelous job reading her own book. She performs it. She feels it. I have about 20 minutes left in the book and I don't want it to end. I'm leaving it for the perfect moment.

    The story is epic, sad, ordinary, and the same time completely enlightening. Several times I wished I could have done the audio equivalent of underlining a turn of phrase, so perfectly put. This book is a treasure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Booklover 07-08-10
    Booklover 07-08-10 Member Since 2016
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    "Contrived"

    The protagonist is just a vehicle for a history lesson. I'm interested in the history of Mexico, which is why I selected the book. But I expected a developed character and a story, in addition to a historical survey. I found the book inauthentic and contrived. And I hated Barbara Kingsolver's reading style.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    timsmom 06-17-10
    timsmom 06-17-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Great characters and humor"

    Barbara Kingsolver has the ability to create memorable characters. They come to life on the page. She also is able to write very humerous scenes. This is the first of her books I have read. I enjoyed it so much I am now reading The Poisonwood Bible.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie Butterfield 04-30-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Houston"

    I have long been a Kingsolver fan and was eager to read this new book. Harrison Sheppard, the main character, is highly compelling and the historical aspects of the book make it even more interesting to read. For me, getting to know Frida Kahlo was especially intriguing because I have long wondered about her appeal. The Lacuna touched me deeply will stay with me for a long time. Harry says in the book that the best part of art, including books, is what is left unsaid. So much is implied in this book and so much pertains to the political and economic situation today without actually being that.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 04-22-10
    Susan 04-22-10 Member Since 2014
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    "Needs a real narrator"

    Like a few others, I have loved all of Kingsolver's previous books, my favorite being the Poinsonwood Bible. Her writing is brilliant. It is unfortunate that she chose to be the narrator/reader of this one, as her narration has ruined the story. She enunciates way too carefully and reads like a grammar school teacher to children. It was hard to get through the book because it was so difficult to listen to her.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Catherine Golden, CO, USA 04-12-10
    Catherine Golden, CO, USA 04-12-10
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    "Please tell the author to write not read"

    I'd really like my money back. I usually adore Barbara Kingsolver but I can't make my way through this book. I started this book over 5 times because Ms. Kingsolver insists on over-pronouncing each consanent and separating each word from the next so distinctly that it's ponderous. It's as if she's reading to 4th graders. She also emphasizes words that are unimportant and that is confusing.
    Kingsolver usually chooses topics that are important and makes them intensely interesting by drawing you into the characters but somehow this book comes across as if she was personally interested in this historical era and wanted to preach to us about it to us for another agenda. I've given up. Perhaps if a skilled performer had read it, I would have been involved enough to followed it through.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lorraine Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States 04-03-10
    Lorraine Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States 04-03-10 Member Since 2003
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    "Violet Brown in Kingsolver's Voice Is Brilliant!"

    I would give this book more than 5 stars if I could. I loved every minute of it. This is one of those experiences where I couldn't wait to get back to listening to see what would happen next, yet wanted to savor the story and the language, and not have it end. Kingsolver does a surprisingly good job reading (surprising because she is a writer, after all, not as far as I know a narrator, and also because there are a LOT of very different characters in this book). Far and away the best part of her narration is the voice she gives to Violet Brown. Don't miss this!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna L. Gagern Southfield, MI United States 04-01-10
    Anna L. Gagern Southfield, MI United States 04-01-10 Listener Since 2004
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    "As rich and satisfying as a book can be"

    Barbara Kingsolver has written an amazingly beautiful book which is thought provoking through out it's rich account of the main characters life. The main character retains an innocence and goodness despite the many ups and downs in his life. The author has also managed to convey important 20th century history with out a history lesson but as a backdrop to the main characters life and interweaves that history seamlessly. Bravo!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Carson Connecticut 03-10-10
    P. Carson Connecticut 03-10-10 Member Since 2015

    Audiobook Raven

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    "A Glimpse of Trotsky's exile and murder in Mexico"

    The book is an interesting insight into the murder of Lev Trotsky in Mexico, the use of troops against the WWI veterans in Washington, and the Anti-Communist mania in the U.S. following WWII. The book is a little slow in the middle sections, after the main character returns to the U.S. from Mexico, but the characters and the settings are interesting and the ending is quite good. Not quite as special as the author's best known book, "The Poisonwood Bible."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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