by Barbara Kingsolver
Born in the US and reared in a series of provincial households in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is mostly a liability to his social-climbing mother, Salomé; his fortunes remaining insecure as Salomé finds her rich men-friends always on the losing side of the Mexican Revolution.
Harrison aims for invisibility, observing his world and recording everything in his notebooks with a peculiar selfless irony. Life is what he learns from servants putting him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs on the streets. Then, one day, he ends up mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist, Diego Riviera – which leads to a job in Riviera’s house, where Harrison makes himself useful to the muralist, his wife Frida Kahlo and the exiled Bolshevik leader, Lev Trotsky.
A violent upheaval sends him to the US. In Carolina, he remakes himself in America’s hopeful image and finds an extraordinary use for his talents of observation. But political winds continue to volley him between north and south, in a story that turns many times on the unspeakable breach – the lacuna – between truth and public presumption.