Synopses & Reviews
A masterwork of American fiction.
The story of a forgotten America, a bittersweet sepia-toned exploration of the intertwined plights of Edward Curtis, a real-life frontier photographer, and the American Indian. To Catch the Lightning is an engrossing novel based on Curtis's, passion to photograph and document every Indian tribe on the continent. Through Curtis's sojourn around the Western states, this stirring saga reveals the double-edged sword that is the frontier spirit, a remarkable tale of a quest made all the more powerful because of its historical roots.
Bankrolled by J.P. Morgan, befriended by Teddy Roosevelt, and a towering figure in his own right, Curtis's epic work consumes his life. Cheuse skillfully portrays the mounting tension as Curtis's quest to keep the Native American presence alive threatens to destroy his own family. It's a story of the disintegration of the Indian people, seen through the eyes of one white man, and how his determination to make a difference, to somehow save them, could mean the end of his family as he knows it.
With the ear of a poet and the eye of a historian, Cheuse has crafted a masterwork of American historical fiction. Lyrical, beautifully written, and impressively researched, To Catch the Lightning is a novel of the American spirit, sure to engage and enlighten.
"Longtime NPR commentator Cheuse returns with his ambitious if not entirely successful ninth book, a novel based on the life of Edward Curtis, the photographer who in 1904 dedicated his life to creating a pictorial record of Native American tribes. Narrated by Curtis's assistant, William Myers, the novel also tells the story of Jimmy Fly-wing, a Plains Indian who leaves his tribe to learn the ways of the white man and aids Curtis in his quest. Curtis's passion for his project is palpable, and his dedication forces him to choose between his family and his work. Though he becomes estranged from his wife, Clara, he is rewarded by the faith and gratitude of many of the peoples he photographed and by glimpses into secret tribal traditions. Though the historical material is often compelling, the novel's focus can diffuse as Cheuse moves between the narrative strands and struggles to keep the story moving over 50 years. When not stuck in the doldrums, the narrative brims with keen insight." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"To Catch the Lightning is a story of loss of choices made and prices paid, of the future coming fast and the past disappearing faster. Cheuse's narrative is refracted through multiple voices, each distinct, but each containing its own poetic precision. A wonderful, wonderful book of quiet power and great beauty." Karen Joy Fowler, author of Wit's End and The Jane Austen Book Club
"Vivid and poignant... Cheuse's ambitious historical novel illuminates one man's heroic obsession and the perpetual dichotomies of duty and dream, discovery and loss." Booklist
"Cheuse does an admirable job of invoking a period, a quest, and the spiritual convergence of times ancient and modern." Library Journal
"An engrossing tale of sacrifice, passion, and devotion to purpose not often exhibited by any man... To Catch The Lightning will, once again, bring both fame and immortality to Edward Curtis and Alan Cheuse." ForeWord magazine
The story of a forgotten America, To Catch the Lightning explores the intertwined plights of Edward Curtis, a real-life frontier photographer, and the American Indian.