The synopsis: "Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities." The story begins on an island in Mexico, when Harrison Shepherd is a boy. He finds a cave below the water line. I was fascinated by the cave called "la lacuna" hidden beneath the waves. I found two photos to illustrate this quote from page 35, when the boy first found the cave:
Today the cave was gone. Saturday last, it was there. Searching the whole rock face below the cliff did not turn it up. Then the tide came higher and waves crashed too hard to keep looking. How could a tunnel open in the rock, then close again? The tide must have been much higher today, and put it too far below the surface to find. Leandro says the tides are complicated and the rocks on that side are dangerous, to stay over here in the shallow reef. He wasn't pleased to hear about the cave. He already knew about it, it is called something alreaedy, la lacuna. So, not a true discovery.
Underwater cave (click to enlarge)
Laguna? The lagoon?
No, lacuna. He said it means a different thing from lagoon. Not a cave exactly but an opening, like a mouth, that swallows things. He opened his mouth to show. It goes into the belly of the world. He says Isla Pixol is full of them.
|Cenote (click to enlarge)|
Frida tells Harrison, "The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know" (p. 218). Years later, he writes to her, saying, "Frida, you always said the most important thing about any person is what you don't know. Likewise, then, the most important part of any story is the missing piece" (p. 277).
A lacuna is a gap or missing part, and gaps are important in this book. A large part of my enjoyment came from that dangerous cave, which I visualized as similar to these photos. Another example of a lacuna is that people seemed to think they knew Harrison Shepherd because they had read his books (he was an author) or because newspapers reported this or that about him. At the end of the book, his secretary Mrs. Brown discovered a gap in her knowledge of the man, when she realized she didn't know some important things about him, even though she had worked for him for years and had even traveled with him on business a time or two. That's the lacuna that matters.
|Joe McCarthy with his aide Roy Cohen|
The story wasn't exciting enough to pull me along, especially in the beginning of the book, but when I reached the last part and the whole thing came together, I was left feeling satisfied. Rated: 8 of 10, a very good book.