Like all the women in post-war America, I fell in love with Mexamerican author Harrison Shepherd, to whom Barbara Kingsolver
gives some mighty writing chops in this 2009 novel. Frida & Diego, Trotsky, and stenographer Violet Brown have their own lovely orbits around Shepherd. Rich and immersive, effectively interweaving true historical events with these fictional characters, the novel presents real and fabricated newspaper accounts to enhance the central character's many personal journals. (Not entirely unlike what Marisha Pessl
did with new media in her latest, the last read I blogged
.) I learned more than I remember having previously known about American history, especially the HUAC
action of the Cold War era. And as a native Tar Heel
, I love that Harrison landed in Asheville
when he returned stateside. With its surprises and subtleties, in hindsight I wish I had read this saga straight through rather than putting it down when I reached a section break to take my own break with one or two other novels. I feel disloyal to Harrison and Mrs. Brown!
Superlatives: Character I'd most like to hang with: Arthur Gold. Character I'd most like to hear more from: Violet Brown. Most honest character: Harrison Shepherd. Most caricatured character: Tom Cuddy. Most throwaway character: none.
From the publisher:
With deeply compelling characters, a vivid sense of place, and a clear grasp of how history and public opinion can shape a life, Barbara Kingsolver has created an unforgettable portrait of the artist – and of art itself. The Lacuna is a rich and daring work of literature, establishing its author as one of the most provocative and important of her time.