Shadows and ElephantsShadows and Elephants

Edward Hower
 
Leapfrog Press
317 Pages - 6" X 9" - Paper
ISBN 0-9679520-3-4 Trade edition - $14.95
(Click here to order)

"Edward Hower is a writer of talent and substance."
 —William Kennedy, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

          Spiritualism, the conviction that the dead are able to contact living people from an afterworld, gained popularity in America after the Civil War, when grief-stricken survivors tried to contact the fallen. In an era of break-away churches and utopian communes, the emerging theories of Darwin and technological advances, ordinary people sought desperately to prove to themselves they possessed immortal souls. Spiritualism also offered women a chance to become leaders.
           One such woman was Madame Helena Blavatsky, a Russian-born mystic who used her considerable intellectual gifts to rise to the top of the spiritualist hierarchy. Together with her partner, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, a popular journalist and war hero, she attracted many of the leading thinkers and celebrities of the age, such as Thomas Edison and Abner Doubleday in New York; and in London, W.B. Yeats, and the young Mohandas P. Gandhi. But, hounded by the media, the subjects of scathing ridicule and notoriety, they moved from the parlors of Gilded Age New York City to the slums of India and again to Ceylon, attempting to spread their ideas.
           Loosely based on the lives of Blavatsky and Olcott, Shadows and Elephants follows two unforgettable fictional creations, who are passionate in their friendship, courageous in the face of damnation in the press, and devoted utterly to their mission to contact the souls of the deceased and learn from their wisdom.
            Shadows and Elephants is a sensuous historical novel with totally contemporary resonance, for indeed, Spiritualism has survived for over 130 years; reshaped today in eclectic New Age beliefs.

Praise for Shadows and Elephants

"Edward Hower has written a sympathetic and wonderfully readable study of a brilliant fraud and her chief accomplice. The characters are based on Madame Blavatsky, the Russian-born 19th century founder of Theosophy, and her protector Colonel Henry Steel Olcott. The action moves quickly from the United States to India and Ceylon, the homeland of mystics and fakirs. Hower's portrait of Blavatsky, however, is full of affection; he presents her as a survivor, a big heart and a genuine visionary.  India, in Hower's prose, also becomes a major character; it gleams and sweats with sensuality, mystery and humanity.  This is a stunning book, vivid, dramatic and full of warmth."
                                                                  —Edmund White

"Edward Hower's novel is an exploration of personal dynamics, as well as a document about people who undertake an unusual spiritual journey. It's a vivid road trip through territory the author sees in close detail, an affecting story of love and friendship that is filled with unusual, unexpected (and all too human) twists and turns."
                                                     —Ann Beattie

"I have never read a book which fulfills so completely John Gardner's idea that a novel should be a "continuous dream." From its evocative title to the astonishing "ascension" of its mysterious heroine at the end, Shadows and Elephants is a mesmerizing experience for the reader."
                                                      —Lee Smith

"Hower's knowledgeable enchantment with an enchanted India illuminates this exploration of the peculiar mental and emotional life of the notorious Madame Blavatsky as she seeks enlightenment in a land that in no way takes her seriously. A generous and lively novel, Shadows and Elephants shows that behind the smoke and mirrors and astral letters, the mystical quest is the biggest maya of all."
                                                                 —Joy Williams

"Edward Hower’s Shadows and Elephants is one of the most engrossing novels I’ve read in the past few years, and is certainly the most engaging—and entertaining—novel I’ve read in quite some time. Given the present rise in spiritual concerns, connected as they are with questions about the sterility of materialistic culture, Hower’s superb fictional evocation of the world of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott has a special pertinency today. In describing them and their milieu, he manages a rare combination of comic irony and sympathetic understanding: the wry attitude which a tolerant Deity might feel, upon examining the record to date of the human race. Hilarious as the novel frequently is, it also takes us into the deeper regions of the psyche. Shadows and Elephants grows in emotional intensity as it proceeds, and provides a resolution that strikes me as so inspired I’m almost inclined to believe that unseen spirits moved the author."
                                                                 —James McConkey,
                                                                                           Professor of English, Emeritus, Cornell University

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EDWARD HOWER is the author of four previous novels. His writing has appeared in venues such as The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The Southern Review, Epoch, The Transatlantic Review, Smithsonian; his reviews in the nation's most prestigious book pages. He was inspired to write Shadows and Elephants while on his second of two Fulbright fellowships and has been awarded creative writing grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, The Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Ithaca, New York and teaches at Cornell and Ithaca College.

 

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