Critical Overview

Wiggins’s The Shadow Catcher was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award. It also made several best-book lists for 2007, including those published by the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Publishers Weekly. Throughout her long career as a novelist, Wiggins has come to be known for her strong but unusual characters and her experiments with form. Critics often link her literary style to poetry, and The Shadow Catcher is no exception.

In a review for the Washington Post, Wendy Smith wrote, “There are passages in Marianne Wiggins’s eighth novel [The Shadow Catcher] so piercingly beautiful that I put the book down, shook my head and simply said, ‘Wow.’”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jesse Berrett emphasized the form of Wiggins’s novel, especially the way the author combines fact and fiction. “Fact,” Berrett wrote, “refracts fiction, and fiction infects fact, in ways that challenge whoever opens these books to build his or her own genre by braiding and unwrapping reality and invention.” After discussing the crossing of lines between fact and fiction, Berrett questions whether it really matters in Wiggins’s telling of the Edward Curtis story. “In the end, this book’s games force the alert reader to wonder how important it is whether that realization derives from a story told well rather than from one told truly. If Wiggins made all this up, would it matter?”

The mixture of truth and fiction also did not seem to matter to Christian Science Monitor reviewer Yvonne Zipp, who wrote that The Shadow Catcher is a “wonderfully written examination of family and memory, with poetic meditations on everything from Route 66 to Leonardo da Vinci.” Richard B. Woodward, writing for The New York Times Book Review, also made comments about the mixing of truth and fiction: “Wiggins ably challenges the smug idea that we can easily distinguish truth and falsehood in telling anyone’s story, especially our own….I don’t care what she calls this book. I’ll gladly read it again.”

And finally, Jane Smiley, an acclaimed novelist in her own right, had this to say in the Los Angeles Times about Wiggins’s book: “Wiggins is too polite to insist that we see the world as she does, but she makes it enchantingly easy to do so.”