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The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver []



Barbara Kingsolver reads her ambitious 2009 novel in a soft and expressive voice with deliberate pacing. The story unfolds over three decades in Mexico and the U.S., and each character has a particular voice within the author’s reading. It centers on the young man Harrison Shepherd whose parents (American father and Mexican mother) are marginal to the picture, and who keeps diaries in which he is a third-person narrator of his own life. Though he holds himself as a perpetual outsider, his life is in the middle of some serious action: as a teenager he gets a job as a plasterer and then a cook for Diego Rivera, living with the painter, his artist wife Frida Kahlo and the exiled Leon Trotsky for whom Shepherd does clerical work. Later, he moves to South Carolina on his own and becomes a successful novelist, until he is targeted by Joe McCarthy’s HUAC. The fictionalized descriptions of these larger-than-life figures and the historical events surrounding them are the focus of the novel, with the main character acting as quiet observer and chronicler, adding his own wry take on the proceedings. It’s an unusual device that creates an inside view of epic times through distant eyes that could be your own. Which is not to say there’s no emotion in it–there’s more than enough passion in the cast of characters, and plenty of historical context to arouse the reader’s.

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