Synopses & Reviews
The Shadow Catcher
dramatically inhabits the space where past and present intersect, seamlessly interweaving narratives from two different eras: the first fraught passion between turn-of-the-twentieth-century icon Edward Curtis (1868-1952) and his muse-wife, Clara; and a twenty-first-century journey of redemption.
Narrated in the first person by a reimagined writer named Marianne Wiggins, the novel begins in Hollywood, where top producers are eager to sentimentalize the complicated life of Edward Curtis as a sunny biopic: It's got the outdoors. It's got adventure. It's got the do-good element. Yet, contrary to Curtis's esteemed public reputation as servant to his nation, the artist was an absent husband and disappearing father. Jump to the next generation, when Marianne's own father, John Wiggins (1920-1970), would live and die in equal thrall to the impulse of wanderlust.
Were the two men running from or running to? Dodging the false beacons of memory and legend, Marianne amasses disparate clues photographs and hospital records, newspaper clippings and a rare white turquoise bracelet to recover those moments that went unrecorded, to hear the words only the silent ones can speak. The Shadow Catcher, fueled by the great American passions for love and land and family, chases the silhouettes of our collective history into the bright light of the present.
"Wiggins (Evidence of Things Unseen, etc.) takes a magnificently Sebald-like approach to fictionalizing the life of photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868 1952) along with that of a woman named 'Marianne Wiggins.' The book opens as Wiggins presents her newly completed Curtis novel to a Hollywood agent. Curtis photographed American Indians in the early 20th century, and Marianne attacks the common image of Curtis as a swashbuckler who risked his life to photograph his favorite subjects. Even as she shows that Curtis staged the shots, and was an absentee husband and father at best, the agent is enthralled. Marianne, ambivalent, arrives home to a phone call that her father is in a Las Vegas hospital the father who has been dead for 30 years. From that quick setup, the novel moves seamlessly back and forth between Marianne's painstaking research into Curtis's life and the journey she undertakes seeking closure with her father's past. Photographs taken by Curtis and from the Wiggins's family album, which she approaches from multiple angles, give the story several layers of immediacy. Curtis emerges as a fascinating, complex figure, one who inhabited any number of American contradictions. Suffused with Marianne's crackling social commentary and deceptively breezy self-discovery, Wiggins's eighth novel is a heartfelt tour de force. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The pages are liberally sprinkled with photographs, insights, realistic pathos, and human situations. This creative novel will not disappoint." Booklist
"[A] very different work from the author's National Book Award nominee, Evidence of Things Unseen: less tightly knit, less lushly written, and rawer in feel, though the rawness has an appeal of its own." Library Journal
Following her National Book Award finalist Evidence of Things Unseen, Wiggins turns her literary imagination to the American West, where the life of legendary photographer Edward S. Curtis is the basis for a resonant exploration of history and family, landscape and legacy.
About the Author
Marianne Wiggins is the author of seven books of fiction including Almost Heaven, John Dollar, and Separate Checks. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.