I’m not much of a ‘best-seller’ reader anymore.
I used to be – I’ve read every Dean Koontz/Stephen King/John Grisham/Piers Anthony novel up to about 1997 or so. Then I went back to school and became a book snob. I discovered writers that could blow my mind while entertaining it, and soon those books cranked out by writers once a year started to feel tired and formulaic. I’ve got absolutely nothing against those books, and some of them are still on my shelf as favorites (The Stand, Lightning, etc).
But not all ‘best-sellers’ are formulaic and predictable. A super-favorite author of mine – Barbara Kingsolver – also happens to be a big seller (which gives me hope for the world). I can’t believe that I have barely mentioned her here before now. Maybe that is partly because she hasn’t had a new novel in YEARS, and I’ve re-read her stuff a million times already.
Lucky for all of us, her skills have not diminished in the passing years. The Lacuna is everything one expects in a Kingsolver novel – fantastic writing, interesting themes, full-bodied characters and a striking moral core. To quote Judy Krueger (fellow Kingsolver fan and bookbrowse.com reviewer) – I love her “because she is a woman of heart and mind who is unafraid of using her mind to reveal her heart.”
I had put The Lacuna on hold at the library before it was even released (I have no desire to own hardbacks, and no way I was waiting for the paperback ). I think there was something like 67 holds on the book before they’d even received their first copy, so it was quite some time before I received that happy little email saying the book was waiting for me. Unfortunately, that email came when I was in the middle of re-reading The Wheel of Time series – 10, 500 pages (thank you, Wikipedia) of kick-ass fantasy adventure.
I picked up the book, but continued with my series. I would look at Lacuna on my bookcase and think “I should really take that back, I’m not going to get to it before my three weeks is up.” But I didn’t, I just left it there as I burned through more Jordan. Finally, I received that dreaded email – “the following item is due in three days, please return.” I tried to renew it, but of course there were 100 people behind me waiting for their turn, so I could not.
Suddenly, the thought of returning the book was unbearable. “No! I haven’t read it yet. You can’t have it back.” I think no one but Barbara Kingsolver could have distracted me from The Wheel of Time. I decided right then that I’d finish it in the three days left to me (lucky for me, it was a weekend). And I’m so glad I did.
Harrison Sheppard is a lonely, virtually parent-less boy who keeps journals to have someone to talk to, even if only himself. His life is split between Mexico and America, where he runs into famous people (such as Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky) and scary circumstances (like food riots and McCarthy-ites), but never feels at home anywhere. Kingsolver shows us the world through his boyhood imagination, youthful enthusiasm, and adult disillusionment. Her writing, as always, is lush and her world almost visible between those black dots on the page.
Now, if I’d bothered to write about this book soon after I’d read it, I’d have much more to say about it. But I didn’t – and I’m old, so the details fade. The book is fantastic, go read it. ‘Nuff said.