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The Shadow Catcher

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  983 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
Following her National Book Award finalist, Evidence of Things Unseen, Marianne Wiggins turns her extraordinary 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.

The Shadow Catcher dramatically inhabits the space where past and present int
ebook, 336 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Simon & Schuster
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Nov 19, 2011 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sue Drees
Shelves: fiction, 2011-reads, usa
I watch the smoke braid and rise into the tree, a shadow branching growth, a ghost, and I think about the ways that lives can intertwine, the way one life touches on another, our lives and all the lives of others a long continuous thread - a train - of independent yet contiguous actions. The Shadow Catcher

That long sentence tells more about this book than I could in a long review. So, I will keep this one short and mention that I found it a perplexing and frustrating book in that there were long
Apr 25, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Both postmodern and post-9/11, this enjoyable novel covers a lot of different ground, mixes genres and happily writes its own author in as a central character. Fortunately for us, Marianne Wiggins (the character) is one heck of a travel companion, paying a cross-desert visit to Las Vegas that evokes droll memories of the high spirits still echoing there from Hunter Thompson's drug-addled visit more than 35 years ago. I speak here of the novel as it "lights out for the territory" on page 155. Bef ...more
Jul 15, 2009 L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing novel. Wiggins writes about, well, Wiggins researching and writing about Edward Curtis, 20th century photographer of landscapes and Native Americans. Wiggins the character wants to tell (or at least know) an honest story, one that is in rather direct conflict with the "official" story. Really, though, she writes about identity and about "lighting out" (sometimes for, sometimes from). The novel interweaves the stories of Curtis & his wife, Clara, Wiggins' own parents, and W ...more
Oct 03, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The opening chapter of this book may be the single most moving and beautiful first chapter I have ever read, bar none! And now that I have finished the book this evening, I can honestly say the entire book is a beautiful creation by the author. It may be fiction but it rings true to the human heart and soul.

Many authors I have read make me "think". Others "move me" from time to time. Still others "touch" sentiments that are seldom approached in my everyday traipse through life. For whatever rea
Nov 05, 2013 Lori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think Wiggins is a top-notch writer. She researches her projects thoroughly. The details she includes give the novel a reality and substance, but the eseence of poetry is completely lacking in this one.

I did not have any kind of empathy or compassion for these characters. They seemed almost too well plotted to me. With the exception of The Orchid Thief, I abhor novels where the writer writes him/herself into the story. I didn't think that method was necessary to this story even though I could
Apr 02, 2008 Laurel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: just-finished
I loved this of the best I've read in a long time. The modern day chapters get your blood pumping and your mind racing as you try to keep up with Wiggins ideas about place and history and follow the character Marianne's journey. The imagery is poetry and even though you want to linger on her words...the prose is like the moving train she so eloquently references throughout. I don't think I will ever fly again without thinking about the passages on DaVinci and aerial! ...more
Jan 17, 2008 Heather rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(audio) - Ok, I'm not sure what to say about this one. I was a bit distracted while listening so I'm not sure if I heard everything fully. I found the details of Clara and Edward's young life intriguing but once they were married the book seemed to skip ahead too quickly. But here's my real concern: this book is a novel but it is based on historical fact ... so where does truth end and imagination begin? Did Edward Curtis, famous photographer of reservation Indians, actually spend much of his la ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Sandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a little frustrated in the early chapters since the "voice" changes didn't move well for me, but I ended up really enjoying this novel. It is based on the actual life of Edward Curtis, famous Western photographer from early 1900s. But this biographical narrative is wrapped by a fictional story of a novelist screenwriter who has written the biography.

Marianne Wiggins, who is not a Westerner, seems to be gifted at describing the geography of the west.
Sheather Nelson
Jul 30, 2010 Sheather Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a big reader, do you remember when you were a teenager or a young adult and you first discovered classics and well-known authors that were new and amazing to you? How you were thrilled to realize when a new (to you) author had written 5 MORE BOOKS, or 10 more, that you could look forward to plundering? When you went to sleep vibrating with the memory of your favorite parts of the book? It was a similar feeling for me to falling in love for the first time. As I got older, and had plumb ...more
Dec 07, 2010 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western
This book so enchanted me, I hardly know how to praise it. Many things I consider nearly personal symbols appear: Red Cloud, Dante, the Ghost Dance, Seattle, Los Angeles, driving in the desert, and appear in a way that summons up the feelings that made them memorable to me in the first place. I found the linked stories odd at first, then fascinating, and finally haunting. I think it would have been a better book without the last chapter, but it is still pretty wonderful.
The photographs also b
Apr 19, 2012 Ladory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my women's reading group
This book is constructed very differently. A large part of it reads as ruminations on a road trip in the author's voice. She's driving to Las Vegas. She rather bounces from one topic to another like stream of consciousness. Some of this bored me, but I must say that I did find some real thought-provoking gems in these ruminations, too. These are gems that will stay with me for a very long time.

It's also historical fiction about Edward Curtis--the photographer who took the famous photos of native
Several stories of loss and abandonment converge in this novel based loosely on the life of Indian photographer Edward Curtis: his loss of his childhood as he was dragged around the country by his itinerant preacher father; his wife Clara's loss of her parent's and home at a young age; her loss of him as his extended journeys photographing Indians took him away for longer and longer periods of time; and the loss of her children's love when she divorced him. Additionally there is the loss to suic ...more
Aug 03, 2009 BookSweetie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some writers go for the tried and true. Marianne Wiggins doesn't in The Shadow Catcher and maybe that is why the paperback book cover is able to sport the attention grabbing line "A Best Book of the Year" with a list including National Book Critics Circle, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and others. Wiggins is the author of multiple books of fiction and has been a National Book Award and Pulitzer finalist. These awards don't add to the pleasure of reading a book unless t ...more
Nancy Jurss
Oct 02, 2011 Nancy Jurss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has one of the more unique writing styles I've seen for awhile. There are two different story lines. One of the "author" herself as well as the story of the wife of Edward Curtis who is a famous photographer of Indians from the early 1900's. The book begins with the author describing an amusing meeting with some movie producers who want to draw from the "author's" biography of Curtis, takes you to the story of Clara (the wife) and then intersects back and forth from that to the author' ...more
May 06, 2009 Irene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am going through this book much too quickly. In reading it, I have the strange sense that the author and I are friends in some parallel universe. Like her I am drawn to the west and to the native cultures that flourished there. Like her, I react in much the same way to our modern world. I like her humour. I like her offhand observations which are part of the book but more like asides to the reader as she takes a break from the narrative of her story, or stories. It is at once a biographyh of E ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In an effort to be a supportive Library Spouse I am reading this book for Mat's (La Canada) One City One Book program. So far, I am enjoying it but that comes largely as a result of the feeling of in-ness I get when reading about LA, and the foibles there of.

I have now finished the book and find myself wanting to break the rating systems down by story-line. I enjoyed the historical fiction bits quite a bit and SOME of the long stretches of random musings by the author but parts of the modern sto
Mar 11, 2009 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enh. The prose style was expository, hurried, full of factoids about LA, Vegas, and parts in between. The quality of the writing, the story, and the characterization was very spotty. There were probably 75 pages of really good, interesting story--and the rest of the book I could really have done without. Mostly a 2 star book, but one extra for the interest of early photography in the West and a little well-drawn human drama and mystery toward the end. I don't understand how this book made it ont ...more
Sally Brock
Mar 29, 2014 Sally Brock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was passed on to me by several others who found it difficult to grasp. I've read quite a few books that could be described that way. Those books are usually worth the effort to stay with, to comprehend the odd timing, the bridges to seemingly disparate narratives or the multitudes of streams they seem to follow. The Shadow Catcher was one of those books. The structure was complicated and took some time to seam together all the elements that she was embracing. Wiggins takes the mythic f ...more
Aug 25, 2008 lbh. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm not sure how much i liked this book, although the writing seems skillful enough. in the end, the disparate elements didn't come together to *make* much, at least for me. i admire the taste for boldness that would lead a writer to this kind of effort, but i kept waiting for the bits to fit together in a way they never really did. sorry, marianne wiggins. i hope we can still be pals; i think you're very smart and talented, i just don't want to take your book to the prom.
Mary Lou
Mar 04, 2016 Mary Lou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Marianne Wiggins’ book the Shadow Catcher paints a much different portrait of Edward Curtis than does Timothy’s Egan’s Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher which I read first. Egan’s book is long and complicated with details of travel, historical events and personas. Wiggins book is short, but even more complicated, and it gives the reader much more to think about than Edward Curtis's work.

The Shadow Catcher has 4 story lines, one of which is about a writer, also named Marianne Wiggins, whose boo
Apr 27, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating intertwining of the story of a narrator named marianne wiggins which may or may not be a fictionalized autobiography of the author marianne wiggins writing about edward curtis which may or may not be a fictionalized biography of the photographer. I had just finished reading Penelope Lively's "Making it Up" and while the novels are totally different in terms of plot, the question of what's the reality of lives is addressed in both. In this book, Wiggins is the side bar. Here Edward ...more
Glorifying your heros. Look at their work: infatuation. Further research on the person, you are hooked. Find out too much about them, you are morally confused. Everyone is human. Flashes of genius, flashes of weakness and humanity. Does the good outweigh the bad? Can you separate an artist's life details from their work?
Aug 08, 2013 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THe author's descriptions of the expansive West took my breath away. This is a book that combines fiction and nonfiction so seamlessly that it is difficult to fathom, but it doesn't matter. Marianne Wiggins has brilliantly taken the story from human to humankind. I didn't want it to end.
Dianne Linden
Jun 17, 2013 Dianne Linden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I connected with this book on many levels: the American Southwest, turquoise, Route 66. In some ways Wiggins' ability to turn a subject over and over reminds me of Annie Dillard, but she is less cerebral. Wonderful writing.
Apr 24, 2014 Heep rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My reviews need some work. I am inclined instead to refer others to particularly apt reviews if I don't get more inspired soon.

"The Shadow Catcher" is about Edward Curtis - the great photographer of the American West - at least half of it is. The other half is about the author. It blends the two tales together somewhat ingeniously in the end. There was a point where I almost lost interest. I'm glad that I didn't because I found the last 100 pages to be entrancing.

At first I thought the book mi
Nov 09, 2014 Rebekah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing mix of historical fiction and contemporary fictionalized memoir, I found *The Shadow Catcher* to fall just short of its promise. The story is most natural when reimagining the story of photographer Edward Curtis' wife, Clara. Her joys and sorrows are simple, believable, and powerful. The story is less successful, or at least much more uneven, when it zooms forward to the modern day. Though at times touching and genuinely thoughtful, some passages are just too overwrought. The attem ...more
Sep 18, 2014 stellajames rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought, "Oh, just another novel about Hollywood." Within a few pages the writer had proven me dead wrong - and, I was hooked. She writes herself into the book in her own little mystery while telling a powerful story of Clara and Edward, their families, their times. I loved the ideas - is it an historical novel or autobiography or complete fiction? Is it about art and photography or philosophy? Even though Wiggins's story and Clara's story are completely separate, everything comes tog ...more
Jan 31, 2015 Anastasia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015
At first, I was charmed by this quirky book. But after a short while, several things began to annoy me. 1) The totally random manner in which Wiggins (the author, as opposed to the protagonist) handled dialog. Sometimes she used quotation marks, sometimes italics, sometimes both, possibly sometimes neither, and sometimes starting with a dash as though the character had been interrupted (when she hadn't). I felt like I was reading the first draft of a book written by a seventh grader. 2) The goin ...more
Kay Hart
This was book club choice for February discussion - and it did generate quite a lot of discussion.

An ambitious work of fiction it is includes photographs from the work of Edward S Curtis and also from the author's personal collection. Inserted throughout the text the images enhance the storytelling.

Although it is fictional, the author has drawn from aspects of herself and known facts about Edward S Curtis and his wife Clara to create two quite separate stories. One in the present is about a fict
Jul 07, 2008 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I wanted to see if it lived up to all of the good reviews/interest it seems to have stirred. And, although I don't think it really met my inflated expectations, I was not sorry that I read it.

There are two - no three - things I really liked about 'The Shadow Catcher.' First: I really enjoyed the "historical fiction" segments. I thought they were interesting in their detail, and I found that I really wanted to know what happened to Clara. Secondly, I admired the author fo
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Imprinted Lives: ...: Edward S. Curtis as The Shadow Catcher 15 4 Dec 29, 2011 07:39PM  
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Marianne Wiggins is the author of seven books of fiction including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and she was a National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-finalist in fiction for Evidence of Things Unseen.
More about Marianne Wiggins...

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“You think you know someone by looking at his face but what can one face say about the thousand thoughts behind those eyes.” 23 likes
“ make art is to realize another's sadness within, realize the hidden sadness in other people's lives, to feel sad with and for a stranger.” 14 likes
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