I could sum this up as, "A very pleasant surprise". Why I was surprised I can not say. This was my first Barbara Kingsolver, despite having her Poisonwood Bible on my shortlist, and I am now more eager than ever to get to that title. Due to my lukewarm feelings regarding the subject matter, this book earned a shaky spot on my TBR shelf, only to surface because it was available on audio at the library when nothing else on my TBR was.
Let us first address said audio. DO NOT SUBJECT YOURSELF TO THIS AUDIO! In case the bold print doesn't speak for itself, allow me to reiterate. The narration, done by author Barbara Kingsolver, was absolutely dreadful. Very few authors are capable of a good narration, and Mrs. Kingsolver really needs to stick to writing. However, it speaks to how much I enjoyed the novel itself that I persevered to the end.
The plot spans the early 1900s, carries the reader from Mexico to North Carolina, and introduces the reader to many personages and events from that era. Such characters as Lev Trotsky, Frieda Kahlo, Diego Rivera, J. Edgar Hoover, and Senator Joseph McCarthy people this novel. Initially, I thought the book centered around Surrealist painting in Mexico, but this was merely a backdrop to the greater tale of communism in the early 20th century. Kingsolver's vivid portrayal, not just of her characters, but of her setting, brought Mexico and Ashville, North Carolina to life. She uses the book within a book technique, also sprinkled with journal entries, reviews, and newspaper articles, to speak volumes about the political upheaval of the time.
Like all good historical fiction, this one will leave you wanting to read a couple of non-fiction titles about the main players and events.