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The Cure For Death By Lightning
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The Cure For Death By Lightning

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,531 ratings  ·  149 reviews
"The cure for death by lightning was handwritten in thick, messy blue ink in my mother’s scrapbook, under the recipe for my father’s favourite oatcakes: Dunk the dead by lightning in a cold water bath for two hours and if still dead, add vinegar and soak for an hour more."

So begins Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s extraordinary first novel, a seductive and thrilling book that captu...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 15th 1998 by Little, Brown Young Readers (first published 1996)
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Best Canadian Literature
49th out of 659 books — 533 voters
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Canadian Fiction
52nd out of 514 books — 401 voters

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Community Reviews

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This is my all-time favourite book written by Gail. I have read it twice.
I re-read this novel as part of my current quest to discover some new offerings to place on my grade 11 independent study reading list next semester. While I won't be adding it to their list (and I'll explain why momentarily), it was every bit as enjoyable the second time around. The novel unfolds on a family farm in the remote Turtle Valley, BC, in the 1940's. The narrator is 15-year-old Beth Weeks, whose personal coming-of-age struggles are juxtaposed against several bizarre and frightening oc...more
Absolutely loved this book. One of the small things that appealed to me was that it followed in time logically, rather than skipping back and forth as so many current storytellers seem to like. I really like the deep character development, and the setting was fascinating. It is set on prairie farm, during WWII. Lots of great detail, suspense, conflict. She is a very descriptive writer with wonderful images. Edging close to being in my top ten of all time.
Siobhán Eloise ✿
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz is one of my favorite authors and this is one of my favorite books. It's one of those stories where you get so involved emotionally with the characters. I just could not put it down. I'm definitely going to read this one again one day.

The story is told by a 15 year old girl named Beth Weeks. She becomes close to a Native Indian girl named Nora. Nora knows a lot about the mysterious Coyote Jack. Nora believes Coyote Jack can change shape and turn you into an animal.

The whol...more
I started this book yesterday and couldn't put it down. It's got that quintessential Canadian thing going on - poetry and myth and character and landscape, all blended together and experienced from the perspective of a teenage girl in a difficult family. I like the way that nobody's perfect in this novel. The characters are all well-developed and richly layered.

Minkee Robinson
This book was highly recommended by some friends and I must say that I'm glad they told me about it. Anyone who love magical realism, good writing and great characters wrapped up in a mystery will enjoy this novel by Gail Anderson-Dargatz.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz was an unknown writer to me; I bought this book from a charity shop on the strength of the title and the comparison with Atwood on the jacket cover (yes, I’m an avid Atwood fan). I found this to be a slow burner – initially I was impatient to get past the opening pages' detailed scene-setting and character introductions. Usually I’m a sucker for detail, yet rather than pulling me into its world, the book’s meticulous descriptions somehow felt like a barrier at first.

But onc...more
The rhythmic pace of this novel, set with the living world of the cows and the flax farm, the changing seasons, the war and the family make this book like reading a song. This is truly a Canadian tale, reflecting on the effects of the war on farming families, relationships with neighbours and friends who are Native, and community living that is such an ongoing reality of rural BC.

Having lived in the Central Interior, I could see and smell the landscape that Beth experienced, and also identify cl...more
The atmosphere of real and imagined menace (but, as it turns out, justifiably imagined), and the verging on gothic harshness of rural and aboriginal life during the Second World War makes parts of The Cure for Death by Lightning almost unbearable to read in the opening chapters. But then the spirit and resilience of 15-year-old Beth Weeks, and her eye for hopeful and redemptive signs in the people, the animals and the world around her win you over, and have you turning the pages with no fear, an...more
Paula Dembeck
This story takes place against the backdrop of daily life on a farm in remote Turtle Valley British Columbia during World War 2.

Beth is fifteen and lives with her parents and her brother Dan. Strange things are happening. A classmate of Beth’s is mauled to death, children go missing on the nearby reserve and Beth herself is hunted by an unseen predator. The Valley is host to many eccentric characters: Nora a native girl who becomes Beth’s friend; filthy Billy a hired hand who swears and is thoug...more
I was immediately immersed in the setting and the plotline of this story, told by 15 yr. old Beth growing up on a remote farm during WWII in British Columbia. Her story is painful, and yet full of strong friendships and traditions. It is at times brutally honest. I loved the scrapbook that Beth's mother put together with recipes and other meaningful scraps of minutia. The pages were stained with smells and bits of things that told a story. The relationships that Beth had with her Mother, Dad, Ol...more
The story is told by Beth, 15, who lives on a farm in B.C. during the second world war. This is a story about poverty, prejudice, ignorance, love, hate, feuds, shape-shifting, abuse, legends and more. There is so much going on in this story - too much? - I thought so.

I thought the best thing about this book was the mother's scrapbook, it was full of recipes, remedies, pressed flowers, articles, notes and memories. It was her safe and private place, her life.
This is the first book I've read by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, but I instantly fell in love with her writing style. With the first page of the book I was enraptured, and as I kept reading, the character development and enchantment of the story had me struggling to put the book down (despite some heavier content). This story portrays some of the realities of Aboriginal-Settler relations and of the possibilities of bridging socially constructed gaps between cultures. I like that the book tried to depi...more
This is actually a reread of a book I rediscovered when I moved over the summer and threw on my ever-increasing to-read pile. It tells the story of Beth Weeks, a 15-year-old girl growing up in rural Canada during World War II. This is in no way a charming, heartwarming, sticking-together-on-the-homefront story. The things that happen to Beth and her family would make Molly from the American Girls series sob into her beret. It’s got incest, it’s got rape, it’s got attempted rape, it’s got bestial...more
Sarah H
I'm sure it had to do with the time and place, but when I read this book about 12 years ago, I was absolutely lost in it. The setting evoked beautifully, and I was so intrigued by the characters and the concept of the trickster... Reading the sequel was a mistake for me: Cure fed my soul in a way that Turtle Valley did not.
Marcy Berg
I gave this book to my mother and she always raved how much she loved it. I found it after she passed away and decided to read it. I loved the book - read it slowly and wondered how my mother reacted to some of the scenes. It's a very entertaining read.
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
... in as much as I can give a rating to something I read so long ago (no, the date read isn't accurate. Wish I was 14 again so I could have goodreads to compile my entire life's worth of reading)...
I really enjoyed this book! It was dark in places but I liked the main character and loved the way it was written.
Joy Galston
This book is very well written. I did not, however finish it as I have become tired of reading about women being raped and/or abused. Particularly young girls becoming women. Just couldn't put myself through reading that again. This book was recommended to me because I am an avid Miriam Toews fan. While the author is Canadian and her writing has some similarities to Miriam Toews, she lacks the humour that Miriam Toews has and I just felt like the story was getting heavier and heavier. Maybe at a...more

Beth Weeks is growing up in Turtle Valley, BC (Canada) during WWII and trying to survive her father. John, her father has a head injury from WWI and after going into the bush after a bear he has gone violent and irrational. He takes his rages out on the small town and mostly his own family. The First Nations lore has it that he has a coyote inside him as some men before him. As children go missing from the reservation and a young girl is found dead Beth cannot shake the feeling she is be...more
Sherry (sethurner)
"The cure for death by lightning was handwritten in thick, messy blue ink in my mother's scrapbook,under the recipe for my father's favorite oatcakes:

Dunk the dead by lightning in a cold water bath for two hour and if still dead, add vinegar and soak for an hour more."

This coming-of-age novel starts with the preceding sentence. The narrator, a rural Canadian teenage girl named Beth Weeks, tells the story of her troubled family during several years during World War II. There are troubles - on a p...more
Jun 10, 2011 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tina by: ?
Solid 4/5. This novel has a little bit of everything. It is a period drama, a coming-of-age story, it is a little quirky, emotionally engaging, suspenseful, depressing, hopeful, and also throws you a little mystery. Halfway through this novel I was depressed by it a little as the main character goes through A LOT of stuff - awful stuff - and I needed a break. But I'm very glad I continued on, because the novel picks up again, ending on an open ended but not despairing note. Beth is a wonderful c...more
Julie H.
This book started off super strong, the writing was tight, the foreshadowing of magical realism meets First Nations oral traditions quite promising, the special status given to women's knowledge was tantalizing, but it petered out partway through and positively limped its way across the finish line. Not only was the coyote/trickster theme not scary, this reader felt totally ripped off by how it was resolved. Even the folks who did short stints at period mental hospitals, specifically the wacky t...more
Melissa McCauley
This is no warm, fuzzy Little House on the Prairie type of book. The narrator is Beth Weeks, a fifteen-year-old living on a remote Canadian farm during World War I. The book is filled with one mentally ill or socially outcast person after another, scraping an existence out of the hostile countryside. And throughout is the legend of Coyote told by the local Indians, the supposed cause of everyone’s craziness and evil.

Have you ever seen those nature specials where they show the sea turtles hatchi...more
Things that were done well (in my mind): the atmosphere of dread (especially before the first climax of the book, which happened pretty early), description of landscape, settler culture etc. I liked how the small BC town in the 1940s was not rosy or immune from social problems that have since been named, even if said social problems read like a list of Things White Suburbanites of the 1990s Were Really Worried About (Tourettes! Down Syndrome! Possible PSTD! Self-cutting! Child molestations and t...more
Kathleen Dixon
Nov 30, 2013 Kathleen Dixon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kathleen by: Jenni Percy
I was handed this book by a colleague who said, "It's been doing the rounds - you might like it." When I was working full-time there, she and I were both in a book discussion group, and I couldn't help thinking throughout my reading that it would have been great to discuss this book with that now defunct group. I would have loved to share some of the beautiful descriptions; I would have loved to see if anybody had tried any of the recipes from Beth's mother's scrapbook (I'm tempted to try the be...more
Zoe Brooks
I read Gail Anderson-Dargatz's coming-of-age story as part of my magic realism challenge. This review first appeared on my Magic Realism Books blog. What follows contains mild spoilers.

The writing was easily readable, and at times poetic (which is something I like in a book). You get a vivid impression of the landscape of British Columbia. There is a wonderful scene where a storm strips the petals from a field of flaxflowers and covers the farm with them: With blue flax in my cupped hands, blue...more
I don't know why, but I had it in my head that this was a fun, light-hearted book, sort of in the way that Amphibian by Carla Gunn is. See, I tend to quickly read summaries of books, decide if it's of interest, and then add it to my "to read" list. I never again look at what the book is supposed to be about so that nothing is given away.

It must have been the title and the cover that made me think this book was entertaining. The content is way too heavy to be considered "light-hearted."

(Stop rea...more
where to begin? i didn't really know what to expect from this book when i bought it. i certainly didn't think it would be this strange. there were a good amount of times when i was just utterly confused or shocked/disgusted by what was happening, but it was narrated in such a gentle way that the events in the book were in absolute contrast to the writing style. and i loved that.
even though the book is relatively short, i really cared about the characters, which are so full of personality and ea...more
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Gail's novels The Cure for Death by Lighting and A Recipe for Bees were international bestsellers, and were both finalists for the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada. The Cure for Death by Lightning won the UK’s Betty Trask Prize among other awards. A Rhinestone Button was a national bestseller in Canada and Gail's first book, The Miss Hereford Stories, was short-listed for the Leacock Award for h...more
More about Gail Anderson-Dargatz...
A Recipe for Bees Turtle Valley A Rhinestone Button The Miss Hereford Stories The Stalker

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