Book Reviews: The Lacuna and Let the Great World Spin
Thursday, May 20, 2010Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
by Barbara Kingsolver
Harrison Shepherd, half-Mexican and half-American, is raised in Mexico with his mother, later he returns to the USA to attend an American school. His divorced parents have left him feeling like he has no real home. He's an eternal outsider. He finally finds a home of sorts working in the kitchen of the famous married artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The story is told through letters and Harrison's diary entries throughout his life.
The book feels like an entire series piled into one book. It's split into many parts, but they are so different it almost feels like reading multiple books. It has an epic feel, spanning multiple decades and cultures. It started slow, but it picked up speed as you became invested in the story. I loved learning more about Mexico's history and Lev Trotsky, but I didn't always love the fictional characters. I was annoyed by Harrison's mother and disliked the sections with her, but I was fascinated by Harrison's interactions with his artist employers. Frida's voice was by far my favorite part; her fiery nature spill passion and life into whomever she touches. I also loved hearing about Harrison's love of literature and his friendship with his stenographer Violet Brown.
Overall I'm glad I read it. I've never been a huge fan of most of Kingsolver's work, but I loved The Poisonwood Bible. My thoughts on this book fall somewhere in between my past experiences with her. I liked the book and enjoyed reading it, but I wouldn't read it again and it doesn't make me long for more from the author.
Pair it with a movie: Frida
Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann
In 1974 Philippe Petit walked on a wire between the World Train Centers in New York City. McCann's novel revolves around various New Yorkers' response to this real event.
Corrigan, an Irish monk, Tillie and Jazzlyn, prostitutes, Claire, a Park Avenue woman who lost her son in the Vietnam war, Lara, an artist and drug addict; each of these individuals has a unique story. McCann's lyrical descriptions of each character pull you in. Their disconnected lives don't seem so different as her weaves them together. He finds a way to cut to the core of the human condition and highlight the threads that connect us all.
Tillie's sassy but tragic voice and Solomon's stoic pain were too of the stories that hit me on the deepest level. Polar opposites, one is a black prostitute who ends up in jail and the other is a white judge who has lost his son in the Vietnam War, but their universal pain unites them. Though their paths cross only for a moment, there's a deeper recognition of despair that they silently share.
This is one that I know I'll read again. The next time I pick it up I'll have met the characters before and so their stories will resonate on a different level. I'm still mulling over each of their stories and considering their connections and I know I'll be thinking about them for a long time.
Pair it with a movie: Man on Wire