Christie Burke's Infinite Booklist

The Lacuna January 20, 2010

Kingsolver, Barbara.  The LacunaThe Lacuna, cover image via HarperCollins, 2009.

I’ll tell you what the jacket says this book is about: “Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey.  Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. … 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.”  And that’s, you know, sort of true.  It is vivid, and the characters are more or less real people… but this book just didn’t grab me like some of Kingsolver’s others have.  I’ve read Animal Dreams a dozen times because it speaks to me so loudly about where home is and who family turns out to be and why our hearts sometimes get broken.

I wish I could say I loved this book.  Barbara Kingsolver is one of my very favorite authors, and I was excited when I heard she had a new book coming out this past fall.  The thing is, I think she writes two kinds of novels.  There’s a Prodigal Summer/Animal Dreams kind of book, where the protagonist is living a more-or-less current kind of life with a great story in it, and there’s a Poisonwood Bible kind of book, which is more historical fiction and based in social awareness.  This book is more in that second vein.  I know a lot of people loved The Poisonwood Bible — I liked it quite a bit myself, until it stopped being about Ada and started being about Congo — and I think it’s important and interesting for books like that to be in the world, but it isn’t my favorite kind of reading and I have to confess that I didn’t finish The Lacuna.  Bad, bad Christie.

So… my verdict here is that Kingsolver’s latest is well written and high quality, but not the book for me.  If you liked Poisonwood Bible, you should give this one a try.  If you didn’t, you should give it a try anyway, because you never know.