Picture of Janet


The Lacuna

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.”

Take this opportunity to be swallowed up by the world that Barbara Kingsolver has created in The Lacuna. It is a world peopled with colorful and fascinating, sometimes maddening characters.

Harrison Shepherd has always lived in two worlds, never quite belonging to either. He is the son of a gray American bureaucrat father and a fiery, beautiful Mexican mother. When the story opens, Harrison’s parents have gone their separate ways. He and his mother Salome are living in Isla Pixol, Mexico, a jungle island, with a man named Enrique. He is just one of many rich men on whom Salome pins her hopes for a life of luxury and excitement. They spend a year there and Harrison falls in love with the water, spending his days swimming, diving and exploring the mysteries of the sea. He is befriended by the gifted cook who teaches him the secrets of preparing Mexican delicacies, including his specialty, pan dulce. Thus begins the saga in which Harrison himself, by means of journals and letters opens up to us a fascinating segment of history. Through his eyes we meet the artist Diego Rivera and his exotic wife Frida Kahlo. We get a glimpse of Leon Trotsky in exile in Mexico. We view the ancient Aztecs and their contribution to Mexican art and culture. We are carried along just as Harrison is from Mexico into the United States at just the right time to glimpse the anti-Communist fervor of the late 40s and early 50s. There are lots of twists and turns as Harrison rides the wave of history and is inevitably drawn into its current.

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