Not being able to find the third book in the Millenium Trilogy in paperback yet, I picked up The Lacuna a few weeks ago when I knew I would need some reading material during Matthew’s knee surgery. I was drawn to the book for 2 reasons: 1) I have previously read several books by Kingsolver (such as The Poisonwood Bible) which I really enjoyed and 2) it’s based mostly in Mexico and involved Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – two famous artists I studied in a college class.
The book talks about Harrison Shepherd a boy who spends part of his childhood in Mexico and part of his childhood in the US. Though fictional, part of the book is based on historical events and facts which makes it quite intriguing.
Through a series of events Sheperd becomes a plaster mixer for Diego Rivera. Rivera is a famous Mexican muralist who spent his life painting murals such as these which talk about class struggle and the Mexican Revolution. Rivera was married to Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who painted a lot of self portraits. Shepherd wins the confidences of Kahlo and they remain friends throughout the book.
Both Kahlo and Rivera were strong communists. In Russia, after Lenin’s death, Leon Trotsky was considered to be the most likely person to succeed him. Due to struggles within the Communist Party and personal struggles with Stalin, Trotsky was exiled from Russia and, after moving about a bit, ends up living with Rivera and Kahlo in Mexico. (This is historical fact, but the way the book tells the story about how Stalin came to power is a bit different.)
Shepherd ends up working with Trotsky as well which causes him problems eventually when he moves back to the United States, where the second half of the novel is set.
I really enjoyed the book and Kingsolver’s very descriptive writing style. There was a continuing theme of the lacuna, or missing piece, that kept one thinking. Seeing a piece of history come alive through a fictional character’s experience was very enjoyable. I definitely give it two thumbs up! I think I might have to dig through my books at my parents’ house to see if I can find my copy of The Poinsonwood Bible to reread now.