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Book brief: The Lacuna

LacunaLike 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.

Doctor's orders

Last Sunday as I was changing clothes, I felt a lump in my breast. Or so I thought, given my fibro-cysto pair of lumpy little boobies. I didn't panic, but I didn't want to ignore the unusual either. Luckily, I'd just that weekend received the letter from my OB-GYN reminding me to schedule my annual well-woman visit. When I called and booked that appointment two months out, I mentioned my bothersome breast, and they gave me a slot the next morning. 

Dr. Knapp was her usual combination of no-nonsense friendliness, and got right to feeling me up. After touching the sore and solid mass on my left, she walked around the table and created the exact same pain on the other breast. "That's no lump," she announced, "that's your rib." I certainly felt like an idiot, if a relieved one. And then she gave me a prescription (although she didn't write it down): Go bra shopping! Apparently my two-year-old undergarments are fitting me all wrong, whether due to their age or my changing body – probably both. Noting that she herself had recently tried on two dozen models at Dillard's before finding the perfect fit, Dr. Knapp stated the obvious: I benefit from having a female gynecologist. Amen, sister! I haven't made it to Nordstrom yet, but I look forward to telling the person who fits me that I am there on doctor's orders. 

(Meanwhile, I'll browse some posts at the excellent Sweet Nothings blog, and get an idea of the variety that awaits. )