January 9, 2014 at 2:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

lacunaTitle: The Lacuna

Author: Barbara Kingsolver


  • n.noun
    1. An empty space or a missing part; a gap.

    2. A cavity, space, or depression, (Biology) in a bone, containing cartilage or bone cells.

    3. :  a blank space or a missing part :  gap <the evident lacunae in his story — Shirley Hazzard>; also :  deficiency 1 <despite all these lacunae, those reforms were a vast improvement — New Republic>

    4. (Printing, Lithography & Bookbinding) a gap or space, esp in a book or manuscript
    5. (Architecture) another name for coffer; an ornamental sunken panel in a ceiling or dome
    6. sheet that forms a distinct (usually flat and rectangular) section or component of something
    7. hiatus

Origin: L, a ditch, hole, pool from lacus: see lake

Barbara Kingsolver’s work embodies and embraces nearly all these definitions in some way or another.  It’s really quite brilliant, although not nearly as riveting as the concept itself.

lacuna 2Whereas The Poisonwood Bible was completely riveting, but I was far less intrigued by the concept.  Funny how that happens.  I love Kingsolver, I think she’s a genius.  She has managed two completely different reading experiences in one career and I only hope that I could accomplish that one day.  With Poisonwood Bible, I was captivated by the place, the drama, her ability to tell a story from five completely distinct voices.  I could not stop reading, could not wait to get back to the story.

The Lacuna put me to sleep.  Honestly.  But it’s not a terrible book.  To be fair, I was tired – really tired – this week.  When I read books like this, I often think of that quote at the end of Fight Club, “You met me at a very strange time in my life,” I want to tell the book.  A time when everything simultaneously puts me to sleep and keeps me awake at night.  On top of that, I was totally distracted by the concept.  I would start reading and instead of getting lost in the story I’d get lost in my thoughts about the story.  I’d soak in every nuance of the word lacuna and sit and pick apart every aspect of how that word is tied to MY story – MY life.

“What do you know about love?”

“Nothing, apparently.  That it winks on and off like an electric bulb.”

– pg. 184

lacuna 3Those lines hit me pretty hard.  There’s the honest truth of so much about the world right there.  At least for me, I see it so truthfully.  Love is like a light bulb to me – a choice – you click it on and click it off.  You decide to love someone in a moment, or not.   I’ve talked about this endlessly in other posts, I’m sure.  I think it fascinates me so completely because how I feel and think about love is so unaligned with how those around me feel and think about it.  While contemplating this word and this story and this quote I remember noting a conversation with someone I had a little over ten years ago.  He had not had a romantic feeling about a girl all day and considered this a triumph.  It baffled me, as I had not had a romantic feeling about a person in possibly a month or more.  When romantic feelings came to me they always overwhelmed me in their suddenness, the complete surprise of it throws me all the time, because I don’t have them often.  I’m not saying romantic thoughts – I love my husband, have loved him for 15 years –  but the *feelings* (not the butterflies or the goosebumps as related to physical feelings, but the emotional ones) I don’t have much.  Explaining this is difficult and often leaves me faced with strange looks.  I consider myself a passionate person who loves deeply and loyally, but have often been told how cold and void of compassion I can be.  I understand both descriptions of my personality because when I do feel, it is a strong sense of emptiness.  I feel a deep hole in my soul – like a lacuna.

Kingsolver has a way with moving you to re-evaluate your entire existence in one sentence over and over again in a book – in a way that writers strive to do just once in their lives.   If I write one excellent sentence that moves someone, I will have considered myself accomplished.  So here is another favorite from the beautifully quotable Kingsolver:

“This is what is means to be alone: everyone is connected to everyone else, their bodies are a bright liquid life flowing around you, sharing a single heart that drives them to move altogether.  If the shark comes they will all escape, and leave you to be eaten.” – pg. 185

I kept saying the word lacuna over and over in my head.  Lacuna, lacuna, lacuna… over and over I let it slip seductively off my mental tongue – while I read, while I did house work, while I slept.  I dreamed about it.  Not the story, not the setting, but the word.  I dreamed about the idea.

“[Y]ou can’t really know the person standing before you, because always there is some missing piece: the birthday like an invisible pinata hanging great and silent over his head, as he stands in his slippers boiling the water for coffee. The scarred, shrunken leg hidden under a green silk dress. A wife and son back in France.  Something you never knew.  That is the heart of the story.” – pg. 325

I’m a little bit in love with the word, and yes, with the feeling of the word.   Thank you Barbara Kingsolver for defining this word oh so eloquently in 507 pages.



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