The critically acclaimed winner of the Grub Street National Book Prize for Fiction
" Until someone tells you, you never know in whose dreams you appear..."—from the prologue
Beginning in the late 1890s, Edward Sheriff Curtis embarked on an overwhelming odyssey to document and photograph the fading way of life of the American Indian. In To Catch the Lightning, Alan Cheuse creates a remarkable portrait of the man who would become a legend. Curtis turned his lens on a landscape of unparalleled beauty and tradition, and in so doing, became the architect of the finest lasting visual record of a culture close to extinction.
Here is a haunting tale of the struggle between ambition and duty and a testament to the power of the sacrifices we make for the dreams that compel us.
"Digs deep into the mystery and sacrifice and selfishness of creative vision." — Charles Frazier
"A worthy effort...illuminating unknown corners of a great photographer's life." — Kirkus Reviews
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.