MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Shadow Catcher

A Novel

by Marianne Wiggins

The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins X
The Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2008, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Dramatically inhabits the space where past and present intersect, seamlessly interweaving narratives from two different eras

The Shadow Catcher's twin narratives follow the life of photographer Edward S Curtis (1868-1952) and his wife Clara Philllips (about whom little is known, giving the author's creativity free rein); and "Marianne Wiggins", living in present-day California, who has written a book about Curtis that has drawn the interest of film-makers.

In an interview on PBS radio (see sidebar for link), Wiggins explains that she has never written autobiography (although parts of herself do come through in other books) but this time she was drawn to explore the central mystery in her own live - why her father, who she loved very much, disappeared from her life when she was young. The story that has been passed down to her is that, some years after disappearing, her father was found dead in a national park by a milkman, apparently having committed suicide. Unable to verify the truth of this, Wiggins has played with the bare facts as known to her to create the fictionalized modern-day thread of The Shadow Catcher.

I was set to dislike The Shadow Catcher having read a damning review that complained that it contained an excess of implausibilities and symbolic coincidences, and that the two storylines failed to gel into a whole and, most damning of all, that the line between fact and fiction was overly blurred, reinforced by the disclaimer on the opening page that states that "the novel is not intended to be understood as describing real or actual events, or to reflect in any way upon the actual conduct of real people."

In fact, I'm not entirely clear how the book found its way on to my nightstand in the first place but, on balance, I'm glad it did. Certainly, coincidence does play a heavy role in The Shadow Catcher, as it has tended to do in other novels by Wiggins, but the book offers more than enough strongly developed characters and themes to compensate (added to which, Wiggins implies that some of these 'coincidences' are taken from her own life - and as we all know, fact can often be stranger than fiction).

The Shadow Catcher explores multiple themes including identity, the exploitation of native peoples and the human need to create heroes out of ordinary people. The core thematic connection between the two storylines is the mystery of a child's love, even hero-worship, of a largely absent father. Even though for much of their childhood Curtis had been absent from their lives, his children apparently doted on him, engraved his gravestone with the words, "Beloved Father" and chose to be buried near him. In parallel, Marianne Wiggins (both the fictional and real version) lost her beloved father at an early age and, more than thirty years later, still seeks evidence of him.

When categorizing books by genre for BookBrowse I have been struck by the thought that a novel is simply a name for a book that doesn't fit neatly into any one genre. The Shadow Catcher is such a "novel" - combining two parallel storylines, one historical fiction, one contemporary; plus a dollop of autobiography, art criticism (supported by 30 interleaved photos) and travelogue. The result is an intelligent, socially conscious book that defies categorization.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2007, and has been updated for the June 2008 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    Crossings
    by Alex Landragin
    Crossings is a beautiful, if slightly messy, time-bending debut. It reads like a vampire novel, sans...
  • Book Jacket: Pew
    Pew
    by Catherine Lacey
    A quote often attributed to Leo Tolstoy states that "All great literature is one of two stories; a ...
  • Book Jacket: Waiting for an Echo
    Waiting for an Echo
    by Christine Montross
    Dr. Christine Montross had been a practicing psychiatrist for nearly a decade when she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Flight Portfolio
    by Julie Orringer
    At once a sweeping historical narrative, an insightful character study and a tender romance, Julie ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    With or Without You
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A moving novel about twists of fate, the shifting terrain of love, and coming into your own.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Woman Before Wallis
    by Bryn Turnbull

    The true story of the American divorcée who captured the Prince's heart before Wallis.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Every Bone a Prayer

Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms

A beautifully honest exploration of healing and of hope.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T Real M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.