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The Lightning Keeper    by Starling Lawrence order for
Lightning Keeper
by Starling Lawrence
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Lightning Keeper is a continuation of Starling Lawrence's novel, Montenegro, about the Balkan family of Danilo Pekocevic, a freedom-fighting hero of the Montenegrin Serbs. Most of the family were lost to war in the homeland, but the youngest son, Toma Pekocevic, is an immigrant working in New York.

Backed against the struggle to harness electricity in the early 20th century, post-Civil War and pre-World War I, it is 'the dawn of the electric age in America'. The setting reels ahead to 1914, six years after Toma served as an errand boy for the Bigelow family in Naples. In their young teens at the time, Toma and Harriet Bigelow fell in love, then were separated. As fate would have it, Harriet and Toma, and the wealthy Amos Bigelow coincidentally meet again in Beecher's Bridge, Connecticut where Toma again is employed by the Bigelows in their prosperous iron-making dynasty.

Toma is a gifted inventor, still in love with Harriet. The Bigelow family has fallen on hard times. As her father becomes increasingly ill, Harriet oversees the business. While working for the Bigelows, Toma invents a water-turbine. Toma is hired as a manager to oversee the development of a lightning-producing project in Beecher's Bridge. The project's overseer is determined GE engineer Dr. Charles Proteus Steinmetz, who sets out to build the Experimental Site, and a tower to attract lightning, setting the stage for a confrontation that could change the course of history. Though Harriet marries wealthy politician, Senator Fowler Truscott, Toma remains determined to some day meet his destiny with Harriet at his side.

Starling Lawrence's The Lightning Keeper intertwines the history of power conductors and the progress of inventions with romantic love in an electric story that holds a reader's attention. Though I found the novel informative, I struggled with the extremely slow pace, and found the characters shallow. The author's strength lies in describing locations, settings, politics, and philosophical innuendoes. I recommend the book mainly to those looking for more on the Montenegro family, or interested in the evolution of energy.

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