The Lightning Keeper
The Lightning Keeper is the continuation of an earlier novel by Lawrence, Montenegro, which explains why the background of the young man from that country is so rich and detailed, appearing in this second book only as letters from his family and his memories. Otherwise, the story in The Lightning Keeper is entirely self-contained and all but the first section take place in the United States.
In 1908, Toma meets Harriet in Italy, a young American girl on holiday. The immediate flash of passion between them is met, literally, by cold water from her mother. Six years later, they meet again in New York where he is the poorest of immigrants, but full of creative intelligence and vitality. To work for her father, he follows her to Beecher’s Bridge, the town of failing factories, dashed hopes and discouraged townspeople. There, on a bare dome of a mountain, the lightning strikes more often than is normal due to the magnetite in the rock. This is where the Lightning Tower will be built, which is still known today as Peacock’s Folly.
The background of the utilization of electricity into a workable force (for the good of mankind and tremendous profit and glory) is reminiscent of Lauren Belfer’s City of Light. The mechanics and patents and stupendous failures are told in great detail, aided by historical photographs and quotes. The personal story of love between classes is seemingly doomed, but the author allows us to rest in our happy ending if we wish. The book has some terrific action scenes and was more interesting as it went along.