Unfortunately I did not enjoy The Lacuna nearly as much as some of Barbara Kingsolver’s other novels. It took me over a month to read it, which is much longer than typical for me (even for a book of this length). For the first half or so, I just wasn’t really into it. I didn’t feel any strong desire to pick it up and keep reading. In the second half, I became more engaged but it was still somewhat slow reading.
The novel tells the story of a man born in the early 1900s in the United States of Mexican and American parentage, who spends much of his youth in Mexican and eventually becomes employed by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and later by Leon Trotsky. Eventually he moves back to the US and becomes a writer, and the end of the novel takes place during the McCarthy era. The story is told in the form of the protagonist’s personal journals and letters. At the beginning when he is young, the journals are all in a distant and third person voice, and I think this was part of why I didn’t feel that engaged at the beginning. It didn’t draw me in because it was so detached. Later when he is older his journals are more personal and it was easier to feel involved with the characters.
Even though I did not find it the most engaging book ever, I can appreciate that it is impeccably written. Kingsolver is a clear master of words and plot. She writes in a variety of convincing styles and tones and the plot is well-constructed and has an excellent, poignant ending that it sad but not unbearably so. I enjoyed her use of language and humor, and did find myself laughing aloud many times as I read.
This is a novel with a grand scope, much more along the lines of The Poisonwood Bible than Prodigal Summer, and I think it may be the case that I simply like her smaller-scoped works better. I am still glad I read it, and overall I do recommend it if it sounds at all interesting to you.