Electric City by Elizabeth Rosner
Elizabeth Rosner has a rare mix of talents. Both a poet and a novelist, she blends these two skills with such ease that her novels flow with a lyrical beauty that transcends the plotline and provides us with many moments to stop and simply treasure her remarkable way with words.
Electric City, her most recent novel, moves back and forth in time between the early 20th century fascination with all things electric (in Schenectady, New York, General Electric’s “company town”), and the changing America of the 1960s and ’70s reflected in the city’s decline. The mathematician Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a German immigrant and colleague/rival of Thomas Edison, figures prominently in the novel. Also prominent are the descendants of those Steinmetz adopted, keeping his vow never to father children of his own. Steinmetz and his experiments with electric current serve as the backdrop to the love triangle between Sophie Levine, a Jewish teenager, Henry Van Curler, the son of the town’s wealthiest family, and Martin Longboat, a Mohawk whose roots extend back farther than the town itself.