Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Marianne Wiggins's new novel, The Shadow Catcher, centers in part on the life of a real historical figure, Edward Sheriff Curtis. Discuss the unique process of weaving fact and fiction: What difficulties it might pose? What artistic freedoms might emerge?
- The book features an unusual narrative technique, combining historical fiction with more documentary-style biography and history, as well as a personal narrative that reads like memoir. Why do you think the author chose to tell this story in this way?
- The chapters in the novel about Edward and Clara are essentially told from Clara's point of view. Is this ultimately more a story about Clara than Edward?
- The intimate details of a personal relationship that unfolded in the past may not be documented in the way a public life might be. Is love a timeless emotion, or is the feeling influenced by the times in which it occurs?
- The Edward Curtis presented here is a much more complicated man than the heroic figure that has come down to us through the legacy of his work. How do mythic elements of a human life arise over time?
- Do you think Edward Curtis's story is a singularly American one?
- There is a character named "Marianne Wiggins" in The Shadow Catcher who, on the surface, shares much of the history of the actual Marianne Wiggins. When you are reading a novel, does the feeling of making a personal connection with the author add to your experience?
- In another unusual feature for a novel, The Shadow Catcher is peppered with images - not only some of Edward Curtis's photographs, but photographs from Marianne Wiggins's family and images of historical and personal documents as well. Why do you think the author included these?
- This is not the first time a photographer has been a central character in one of Marianne Wiggins's novels. Discuss the art of photography as it might relate to fiction.
- A watchword throughout this novel is "Print the Legend." Why do you think we sometimes cling to our cultural myths in the face of overriding evidence against their truth?
- Late in the novel Wiggins writes, "How the average person dreams is pretty much how the average novelist puts a page together." Discuss the possible meanings of this statement.
- Marianne Wiggins was born and raised in the East, lived in Europe for many years, and now lives in California. How might a person come to develop such an obvious passion for a region -- in this case the Western landscape -- not her original home?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.