I had no idea what to expect when a friend loaned me The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. But once I started, I could not put the book down.
Kingsolver takes you by the soft hand of a shy boy, who’s mother is not quite motherly and who watches the world as if he were not part of it. The lyricism of the narrator’s writing, his journals we are perusing, have a slow pace to them. It’s deceivingly slow as you move through his childhood and youth.
When the narrator returns to Mexico after escaping school, he takes up with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The plot picks up when the reader is given this reference point. The two legendary artists and their large personalities draw out Solí, a name given to him by Kahlo. Politics of the time enter the novel and cause violent disruptions in what was the otherwise peaceful life of Solí. Weaved in from the second chapter is this mysterious V.B., for Violet Brown, who increases in importance as you move through the novel.
The boy turns into a man and adopts many names throughout his life depending on who is addressing him or where he is living. By doing this, Kingsolver sets the expectation that the narrator, or anyone, is defined more by those around him than himself. Kingsolver deftly demonstrates the power of words and the destructiveness of fear as Solí, now Shepard, faces he accusations of communism during the cold war. Through Shepard’s life, the reader sees how easily humans are pushed and prodded into their thoughts and actions.