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Apr 04

Amy Suggests...

Posted by: amy

You may have seen the book recommendations in the Waitsburg Times today from Amy Rosenberg, the new branch manager. If you haven't, here they are!

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

A lacuna is a missing part, a cavity, an emptiness defined by the things that surround it. There are many lacunae in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, but perhaps the most apparent is it’s narrator, Harrison Shepherd. We know facts about him, like that he was born in the US and grew up in Mexico. He was a cook for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. He wrote torrid novels about Mexican history. But we find out who he is only peripherally, by what is unsaid and what he says about others.

But it is through Shepherds journals and letters, along with some real newspaper articles that Kingsolver pieces together the story. It begins when Shepherd is a child, in a hacienda surrounded by howler monkeys on Isla Pixol in 1929.  As the novel progresses Shepherd becomes part of the lives of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. Yet, in the tumultuous Rivera/Kahlo household, Shepherd remains apart. He keeps his head down and his pen busy. After the assassination of Trotsky, he moves to the US. There, he lives as a recluse until called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to give testimony about life among the Trotskyites.

Librarian and human action figure, Nancy Pearl, says that readers usually enter a book through one of four doorways, Character, Story (or plot), Setting or Language. Reading The Lacuna is like entering all four doorways at once. The characters are alive and richly painted. The story is fascinating, heartbreaking and complex. Despite it’s length (and it is long, folks) I read it in just a few days. The setting is lush and sensuous. The language is gorgeous. I’ve always been a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s and The Lacuna is I think, her best work.

The Great House, By Nicole Krauss

The Great House is comprised of 4 stories centered around an antique writing desk. The desk itself is “an enormous, foreboding thing that bore down on the occupants of the room it inhabited, pretending to be inanimate but, like a Venus’ flytrap, ready to pounce on them and digest them via one of its many little terrible drawers.” One of which is forever locked. The desk is an omnipresent feature in the book and in the lives of the characters who live around it.

Nicole Krauss is spectacularly gifted at weaving together the threads of disparate narratives into a wondrous, heartbreaking whole. The Great House is, in essence, a mystery. Like the desk with the locked drawer, it doesn’t give its secrets up easily. In the beginning, it’s unclear how these characters relate to one another. Gradually, as the connections between them become clear and as the mysteries slowly reveal themselves, we are left with a sense of having touched something important.

Krauss is a young writer and The Great House is her third book. Her second book, History of Love, is an amazing piece of fiction, one of my all-time favorites. She is an exceptionally talented story teller, but it’s her descriptions and her use of the language that will break your heart. Then mend it, and break it again.


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