It took me over three months to finish Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna. Seriously. Three months. I used to finish books in half a day.
But that was back when my only job was to read and teach about reading, back when the only person I had to take care of was myself, back when I read all the time because that is who I am.
Somehow, four pages a night, The Lacuna and I made it through together. I never lost the thread, and I didn’t forget parts despite the long read-time. That’s amazing, given that when I used to read books in half a day, I’d get to the end of a chapter sometimes and not always remember the one before. That may be a commentary on the quality of the book or it may be a commentary on how little I have in my life that’s as interesting as actually reading a book.
A lacuna is a missing piece, a breach, a gap – something that if it were there would explain everything. The title may refer to Harrison Shepherd’s sexuality – which he tries to keep hidden, the hidden passageway under the water, the themes of his books, or any number of other missing parts in a story that stops and starts as Kingsolver tells the tale with journal entries, letters, and so forth. We don’t have Frida Kahlo’s letters to Shepherd – just his to her. We get one side of the story over and over.
You’d think, given that the voice is almost exclusively his, that we’d have some idea who he is. However, the real lacuna here is Shepherd, who, despite all his so many words, is almost a complete mystery. The reader never feels she gets to know this man, this man who is closeted not just sexually but politically and emotionally, even in his own private writings.
As a memoir writer, it makes me wonder how much of me is a lacuna, a hidden piece that would explain everything if I could just find it, reveal it. How much do I keep in the closet?