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Water Witches

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  3,683 ratings  ·  332 reviews
From the bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant, a comic and life affirming novel of the clash between progress and tradition, science and magic: “one of the most elegantly philosophical, urgent—yet somehow timeless—novels of these perilous times” (Howard Norman, National Book Award finalist for The Bird Artist).

Vermont is drying up. The normally lush,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 8th 1997 by Touchstone (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,683 ratings  ·  332 reviews

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Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors from whom I never know what to expect. I have loved some of his work, I have been indifferent to much of it as well. None of it is terrible, but if it were not for those that shine, I would have deserted him long ago. This one, unfortunately, falls into the “not so good” category for me.

Can’t anyone write a book without an obvious political agenda anymore? Must all the people of the world be either wealthy and corrupt or new-age, tree-hugging and caring.
Patricia Williams
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another really good book by this author. I learned a lot about environmental issues in the Skiing communities in Vermont and also was very uplifted by the love of the main character for his family and his state. Would definitely recommend.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily by: I came across it myself, prompting me to then read all his books in the order written (excepting the first and Skeletons of the Feast
Chris Bohjalian's books take two or three issues that people tend to have strong opinions about, and somehow make them all come together into one cohesive novel where the issues are not the stars of the story and no bias on his part is revealed, as well as no conclusion provided. The issues are there without being introduced, and the story line does not focus on them, but rather weaves through them. The books are written in a flowing way that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading till ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
How does a prolonged drought affect a small town, its businesses and inhabitants, especially when some of those people have the unique ability to "dowse" for water underground? The title implies a mystical tale, but it's far from that. Instead, it focuses on common people and ordinary problems, moral dilemmas and the sheer impossibility of determining at times what is good for some vs. good for all. Small town politics at its finest! I liked Scott Winston best because I felt he was the most ...more
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This one of Chris Bohjalian's earlier works, but I could not tell this from reading it. I felt that it was just as good as his more recent works. Set with the backdrop of his typical Vermont beauty, Bohjalian introduces the topic of dowsing (which I had never heard of), which plays a significant role in the lives of all of the characters in the novel. The story has a mixture of mystery and magic and has a great deal of humor throughout.
Elizabeth Vanderesch
Surprise, surprise, another Bohjalian novel set in Vermont with a trial and a lawyer with a conflict between his job and his conscience, a strong group of women with unusual occupations and an adorable, highly gifted daughter. Hmmm. Why do I keep reading his books? I suppose because he's a really good story teller and in these days of facts and figures and "reality", we all need a good story just for it's own sake.
Sep 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
Shelves: for-book-club
Boring. Not compelling. Do not recommend.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
90s Earth Mother feminism hasn't aged well, and unfortunately neither has this book. Patience reads like a parody of what the author thinks a feminist sounds like, and her brand of feminism is laden with cissexism and gender essentialism, making her difficult to sympathize with or relate to.

The story wants to be grounded in real-life environmental issues, and that aspect of the story is one I find undeniably compelling, but that's dampened by the need to take dowsing seriously as the book's
One of my fav reads. Read this book after we had to have a well dug on my mother-in-law's farm. When the well company came to give an estimate, they brought this sweet little old man who looked about 100 years old. He walked the property with an L-rod until he ascertained where they should begin the drilling. I was fascinated, and looked for books about dowsing. Since I generally read fiction, I found this book and loved the story. Would recommend it to anyone who is interested in dowsing, New ...more
Why hello, intense '90s Vermont nostalgia!

I lived in Vermont in the '90s, this is set in Vermont in the '90s, and it feels deeply of Vermont in the '90s. This is both good and bad. On the good side, the atmosphere is thick on the page and lovingly portrayed. The characters could easily be people I knew back then, the crotchety weirdos. And this is ultimately a tender, environmentalist narrative that celebrates family and the land.

Bad: wow the '90s hated fat people. And was weirded out by queer
Apr 30, 2009 rated it liked it
This novel revolved around dowsing, something I had no prior knowledge about. Dowsing or water witching (hence the name of the novel) is the practice of locating hidden water wells, buried metals, gemstones, or other objects. However, the main theme is honesty. The narrator is a highly paid attorney who is forced to make a drastic decision in order to keep his young daughter's respect. I definitely think Midwives was more entertaining, but this was still a rather interesting book.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
You know how stories are supposed to have the introduction, the rising action, the climax and the closing? This story pretty much doesn't have the middle two parts. Maybe it's because the idea of a drought in a town isn't that exciting to me. It did have the ethical struggle that his other books have, but this one was much less heart-wrenching and kind of un-exciting.
Nov 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
I read this book for my book club and if it had not been for that I would have stopped reading it. The whole book lacked emotion and a sense of direction. I really couldn't tell you what this book was about and what was accomplished. The female characters could have been so much more than the flat, boring characters that they were.
Tori Miller
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Jule, people who like Chris Bohjalian books
I have read 3 of Chris's other books and I liked all of the others a lot better than this one, but I did enjoy it. I had never even heard of dowsing so the book was interesting. Like his other books you feel like you are learning something while you read the novel. The book is over 10 years old but I thought it came across as even more relevant today since environmental concern is growing.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I couldn’t finish this. I love this author, but the plot wasn’t quick enough and the characters weren’t compelling enough to keep going.

I did learn a lot about dowsing!
Amy Ingalls
Even though this book was published over 20 years ago, it was timely. As a native of Massachusetts, the area I live in has been hotter and drier than ever, and our state has had drought or water-restrictions the past few summers.

It did take me awhile to get into this book-- in the beginning I didn't really like any character except for Miranda and Elias. However, as the trial goes the characters begin to grow on me. I'm also a sucker for a happy ending.
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fic-1986-present
Definitely not a page-turner. Overall, the story was rather 'flat' and the characters, while likable, never became memorable.

The title attracted me. When I was seven-years-old, our 'elderly' neighbor lady witched our well for us. She immediately became a person-of-interest in my young mind. (Now I realize that she was probably in her 60s at the time.) Over the years, the topic sometimes surfaced and I tried dowsing, getting clear responses with a forked willow branch and with L-shaped metal
Melissa T
This was much less "witchy" than I thought it would be, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. The main premise is the debate around expanding a resort, and the enviromental and economic impact that will have on a Vermont town near Montpelier, which is in the midst of a drought.

Scottie heads up the law firm that is representing the resort. His sister in law Patience is a well known dowser. His wife, Laura, can also dowse, but not as well as patience. His daughter, Miranda, also has the talent. He
Gary Delligatti
I first picked up this book at the Pittsfield Massachusetts library book sale. I was on my way to checking out, and I saw this on the shelf for $0.50, I liked the cover, so I picked it up. For those that don't know, a water witch is simply a douser. You know what I'm talking about, a person that uses those strange rods to find water . The story is set in modern-day Vermont, who is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. The story is narrated through a husband of a family who is a ...more
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read (and loved) "Midwives" many years ago and on an earlier trip to the library this summer, I discovered many other books by Chris Bojhalian. Water Witches is my third of his books and I will likely read all of his others! His writing is descriptive (I could feel the dryness of the Vermont drought) and although I knew nothing about dousing before starting this book, I came away with a basic understanding of what it is. The book deals with conflicting interests of environmental ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
It was a bit odd to read a book set in Vermont during the summer...about a ski resort & all the talk about making snow....while seeing it snow outside.

One thing I like about Bohjalian is that he makes every novel unique. Different characters, setting, situations, issues. This isn't a complicated read but covers issues in a small town/state between business and jobs vs. the environment. Hard for things not to get personal!
Sarah Leclerc
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was probably one of my least favorite books he has written. It was super slow to get into and seemed like it took forever just to figure out where the story was going. Once the story picks up it's interesting but not captivating.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was looking for a light read, and this book fit the bill. I was afraid it would be an environmentalist attack of evil business, but found it treated the various points of view with a tender touch. Politics aside, it has a good story, interesting Vermont characters. Entertaining and well written.
JL. Foley
This was a very nice story. I just feel it lacked oomph.
Isabel Mansfield
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book great characters
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Easy summer read, one of the better by Bohjalian. Little freaky reading it while watching the lake levels get really low here in the Laurentiens....
Kate S
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, crixus
Another nice story. This was a light read. It was a lovely way to enjoy a lazy afternoon.
Vicki Davis
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my very favorite Bohjalian books!!
Debbie Vignovic
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
What Amazon says:

Set in the Vermont countryside, Water Witches is a tale of the clash between progress and tradition, science and magic. In the midst of a nightmarish New England drought, cynical ski industry lobbyist Scottie Winston is trying to get a large ski resort the permits it needs to tap already beleaguered rivers for snow. His wife, his little girl, and his sister-in-law -- dowsers or "water witches" all -- hope to stop him, however, in this gentle, comic, life-affirming novel.

What I
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Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 20 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times become movies.

His most recent novel, “The Flight Attendant,” debuted as a New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and National Indiebound Bestseller. It was announced in
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