Divided by time. Ignited by a spark.
Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist—one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.
Oklahoma, 1934. Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family’s farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire—and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life—Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.
England, 1919. In the recovery following the First World War, Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?
While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined.
Description taken from Goodreads.
I, like so many others, read Midnight at the Electric because it’s by the author of Tiger Lily, which is one of my favorite books and possibly the most mature, elegant, and raw portrayal of YA lit that I’ve ever read. I went into this one hoping for the same emotions, this time laid out over the generations. Anderson’s brilliant insight did make a few cameo appearances here and there, but all things considered, Midnight at the Electric didn’t deliver.
There have been an influx of multigenerational stories being released over the past few years, possibly due to the influence of the film version of Cloud Atlas, which is coming up quick on my reading list. I’ve read several myself. They were each written by acclaimed authors, each with a strong sense of prose and style, but only one of them really stood out to me. What I’ve encountered with stories like these is that they have two major hurdles to cross. The first one is in the characters themselves.
It takes skill to write a book over worlds and lifetimes, and then connect each of them. In that sense, I was impressed by Midnight at the Electric and the unexpected ways that the characters were brought together. I got to know each of the three narrators and all of the supporting characters in them. I especially loved the storyline of Catherine, who struggles between the future that she’s always wanted and the boy that she loves. Looking at each story individually, I wanted to follow them further and explore what Anderson had created. The conflicting ideals, the disappointing realities, and the struggles for love and happiness reminded me of the themes found in Tiger Lily.
It was unfortunate that the storylines had to be connected. The strings that tied them together were unique, but they were also just threads. The connections felt forced, and the curiosity and emotion of each storyline was lost. As Adri, Catherine, and Lenore came closer together, the pace began to lapse. The story didn’t mean anything to me by the end.
That’s where the second hurdle comes in, and the one where most people fail: creating cohesion. In the end, the author has to woven the storylines into a message or theme (or several) that’s been tested by time and fire. The idea doesn’t have to be spoken, but it should be evident, and I didn’t see that in this book.
Granted, some people will see it in Midnight at the Electric. The book has been rated well, and there’s general praise for it. But for readers with no prior knowledge of Jodi Lynn Anderson, let alone readers who don’t typically read this genre, this isn’t the book I would recommend first.
Overall, a decent read, but there’s much better historical fiction out there, and I’m still looking for great multigenerational stories. While I love the sleepy, emotional character of Anderson’s novels, this one was on the low side for me. 2 stars.