Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great Escapes

I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s newest book, The Lacuna. The book is an autobiography of the fictional William Harrison Shepherd, a Mexican-American cook turned writer. The book is masterfully done. I was pulled in immediately by Kingsolver’s sharp prose, engaging characters, and a storyline that twists and dances its way through the history of two countries and leaves you guessing until the very end.

But what captured me most about the book was the title. Though it sounds Spanish, fitting with the setting of the book, lacuna is actually an English word, meaning a gap, an empty space, or a missing part. The lacuna in the story is an underwater cave Shepherd discovers as a boy. When the tide is right, Shepherd can swim all the way through the cave, emerging in a totally new place. This imagery of a secret passageway through time and space becomes the metaphor on which the entire plot turns.

I didn’t do a lot of pleasure reading in seminary, but right around the last couple weeks of the semester, I always found myself picking up a book. Usually Harry Potter or something else light, familiar, and well worn; I am the sort of person who reads books over and over again, delighting at the familiarity. Books were my lacuna, secret passageways out of the end-of-semester stress and into a new world. On internship when everything is so unfamiliar, books offer the same gift, a way to disappear from this life and spend some time with old friends. And so I offer a prayer of thanksgiving for books and the people who write them. Entire worlds that fit in the space of my bookshelf, offering no end of escapes and adventures if only for a few hours.

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