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To Catch the Lightning: A Novel of American Dreaming
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To Catch the Lightning: A Novel of American Dreaming

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  10 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.
Hardcover, 502 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published January 1st 2008)
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Mar 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, history
A man with a mission, questioned from many quarters, who achieved something original and half-sacred. But to whom? And is it worth the sacrifices? Strangely moving story of an obsession to capture a disappearing past and what it does to the people engaged in it. Keeping this one for the personal bookshelf.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
This book has much going for it, especially good writing (by NPR's main book critic) & a historical theme at the heart of American history--the displacement of its native peoples, a passionate heroic effort (by the photographer Edward Curtis) to preserve their cultures, and attention to the cost that effort imposes on the hero's personal & family life. Unfortunately, the latter theme predominates in a cyclical, redundant way that becomes tedious long before we reach page 500 (this should have be ...more
Dec 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
This is a book that ultimately didn't satisfy me. It is a fictionalized biography of Edward Curtis, who set out at the change from the nineteenth century to the twentieth to document the disappearing American Indian tribes using photography and journals. This book also provides fictionalized narration from several other members of the expedition. The book is strongest when describing Curtis' journeys and his challenges in keeping his family intact during his long absences from home, and the cult ...more
Sep 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written historical fiction novel about Edward Curtis, photographer in the late 1800's. He undertook a pretty ambitious project to photograph the remaining Indian tribes, which at times was somewhat overwhelming. He devoted so much to this project & would not give it up, he lost his normal life, his marriage, his wife & eventually his photography studio in the divorce. He always loved his children, but always seemed to love his work more, he was afraid he was running out of time, as ...more
Feb 24, 2010 marked it as to-read
Alan Cheuse was speaking at a local book store discussing A Trance After Breakfast. I'm a big fan of his NPR book reviews. He was doing the NPR interview circuit and I heard him mention this book. My interest in Indian history has drawn me to the amazing images by Edward Curtis. I've found them at Antiquarian Book Fairs while looking for maps, and have a reprint of one of his collections.

So here is an author I really like and he has written a book about the man behind these important images. Th
Feb 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I've always been interested in Edward Curtis, but from the get-go this book was disappointing. I'm familiar w/ Cheuse from his NPR book reviews, but he cannot write novels. His style is very amateurish & cliche ridden. I kept wishing that it had been written by Larry McMurtry instead. I started skipping sections just to get through it & learn more about Curtis, but it's written so badly that I gave up on it after forcing myself to read 300 of it's 500 pages. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN GREAT, BUT IT W ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
In this true story we meet Edward Curtis, a photographer at the turn of the 20th century. He has a spiritual experience that steers his life toward an all consuming passion. He feels he must document every Native American tribe in North America before they no longer exist. His beautiful photographs of Native Americans are priceless. He led a fascinating life and I enjoyed reading about it.
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Cheuse tries to capture the thoughts of Edward Curtis, a turn of the century photographer who made it his life's mission to document the remaining American Indian tribes, and the people closest to him.

I wanted to like this novel, but I ultimately found it unsatisfying. Changing perspectives with each chapter made the story feel disjointed, and I felt closure was lacking.
Lucy Allen
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
4 stars for me because I am fascinated by the photographs of Edward Curtis and to read about the man and the sacrifices he made to be the first anthropological photographer enhanced the haunting images he left us.
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American writer and critic.
For more than two decades, Alan Cheuse has served as NPRs voice of books. He is the author of three novels, including The Grandmothers Club and The Light Possessed, several collections of short stories, and a pair of novellas recently published in The Fires. He is also the editor of Seeing Ourselves: Great Early American Short Stories and co-editor of Writers Workshop in

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