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The Cure for Death by Lightning

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  6,109 ratings  ·  274 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 15th 1998 by Little, Brown Young Readers (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,109 ratings  ·  274 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
The Cure for Death by Lightning is definitely a Canadian book. If you've ever spent time in one of Canada's many isolated rural communities, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Makeshift worlds, friendship with some of the strangest yet most alluring and interesting people, unique culture and an atmosphere of magic. Anderson-Dargatz captures it all very well in this historical fiction novel, set over half a century ago.

Beth is a wonderful and endearing main character, and the quirky peopl
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was a good book. It was well written and I liked the elements of the magical peppered throughout. But I just didn't enjoy it. Between the lengthy descriptions of farm chores and the baking of desserts, I spent much of this book wondering where it was going and what it was building toward. I also found that none of the characters resonated. I have finished the book with no greater insight into any of the people, not even the protagonist. I know many people love this book and I don't want to ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reviewers descriptions of The Cure For Death By Lightning like "brilliant","bewitching""Mysterious", "engaging" are no exaggeration! The Boston Globe describes the style as "Pacific Northwest Gothic" and I find it fitting. This talented writer transports us to the interior of British Colombia, during World War Two, into the life of 15 year old Beth Weeks. Although a mature teen would probably appreciate it, The Cure For Death By Lightning is absolutely not a YA novel. It is also not for the sque ...more
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Twenty years or so after reading "The Cure for Death by Lightening", "A Recipe for Bees" and "A Rhinestone Button" I found myself mulling over the influence that Gail Anderson-Dargatz has had on my future literary exploration.

Twenty years ago, her novel was nominated for The Giller Prize, a literary award newly established in 1994 to celebrate excellent Canadian writers. Knopf Canada had launched a program, The New Face of Fiction in 1996, to bring more Canadian authors to the attention of the
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my all-time favourite book written by Gail. I have read it twice.
Apr 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: can-lit
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
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, fiction
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.

Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
3.75 rtc

This was a very fast book to read but one that was a bit hard to digest. I had to take some time to think over the events of the book and my reactions to it.

This is a book that spans about a year in a small village situated in British Columbia during WW2. Our main character Beth is a girl around 14/15 who is growing up in a family that is isolated from itself and from the community. The novel displays the tense atmosphere between Beth, her brother, her mother, her father, and the two In
Siobhán Eloise ✿
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sam (The Literary Hooker)
While I can appreciate what the author was trying with this novel, something about it didn't really work for me. There's a bit too much going on, and all at a very superficial level, in that the author never digs deeper into any of the weirder elements she introduces. There's a ton of Native lore sprinkled throughout which may or may not appear in the actual plot of the story, but Beth never questions what she sees or seeks more information.

Which brings me to probably my biggest issue with the b
Nov 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry but this was terrible. I fail to understand the point, and I honestly can't believe that people are considering this as high school reading. I'm usually open to a lot of different kinds of novels and can find something redeeming in them, but not this one. The only character I liked was Filthy Billy, and maybe Bertha. Liking is generous, I had no connection with a single character and the story was so strange.
Zoe Brooks
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
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
Violette Stepaniuk
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The Cure for Death by Lightening is the first Goodreads recommendation I have read. I couldn’t resist a book that promised magical realism, flowers raining from the sky, unseen predators, shape-shifting, extra fingers, talking to the dead, fits of madness, Tourette’s Syndrome...and these opening paragraphs:

"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 wa
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit
This book is very well written and has some great moments but it is pretty bleak and I need a happy book now!I loved the descriptions of day-to-day life on the farm and the view of life in town as well. I enjoyed the inclusion of Native lore and magical realism very much as it felt true to the reality of having Native neighbors, friends and farmhands. I had previously read Turtle Valley, not knowing that is a "sort-of sequel" and wish I had known that beforehand and had it to read now as I don't ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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.
Sheri Radford
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Everyone seems to love this book--except me. The magic realism didn't work. The flat tone was monotonous. The protagonist wasn't believable, because she never reacted to any of the incredible events taking place around her. And why on earth were so many characters (including one female) in love with her? It's not like she was a particularly interesting character, worthy of notice in any way, so why was everyone attracted to her? I simply didn't get this book.
Marcy Berg
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Minkee Robinson
Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Patrick H
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
If you're into a meandering plot with no explanation for the few interesting occurrences that happen throughout the course of a book, then look no further.

It's kind of like an album where you keep telling yourself "it'll get good any minute now." But it never does.
I could not put this book down! I basically read it in one sitting, I started it around 5 or 6pm last night, read until around 1am, slept, then called in sick to finish it. It's not exuberant and delightful, like the jacket said, it's a bit darker than that, but it is a page turner. It's the story of a Beth Weekes' 15th summer, when the lines between the world of the living and the spirit world are crossed. The First Nation family members who are friends and farm hands know what it is, but can B ...more
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian
This is yet another fantastically Canadian novel by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. Similar to the Spawning Grounds, the book was filled to the brim with legends, along with an underlying hint of mystery. The characters were very realistic, for the most part, and I really loved the remedies and recipes that were scattered throughout the pages. There were so many little moments that triggered memories and just really made my connection with the book that much stronger. I look forward to reading more of he ...more
Wendy Dawson
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This remains one of my favorite books Of all time and one of the only books I have re-read and expect to read again. The main characters are great and the secondary ones even more so (filthy billy and Nora).
Belinda Waters
I found his book hard to read and it took me forever to read it. It was just ok for me.
when you expect magic but you get lengthy descriptions of farm chores instead :/

Filthy Billy <3
amy kara
This was such a weird book. In theory, that wouldn't necessarily have to be a bad thing; plenty of books I've loved before have been very strange as well. However, this novel was weird in a way I couldn't appreciate. It was not strange in an immersive way or in a way that felt like it meant something significant, it was just bizarre. Overall, reading the novel was enjoyable enough though.
Jessie Douglas
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Septimus Brown
Dec 09, 2015 rated it liked it
By way of context, I picked up this book from the university library since I am starting an MFA in creative writing. Gail Anderson-Dargatz is one of my two professors for the upcoming semester.

I had a small rush of panic as I read through the introduction. The writing is tight. The slippery tones of fantasy-realism are intriguing. And the themes are true grit.

So of course I started agonizing that I would never be able to produce anything on par with this, nor even come close. That is, perhaps, a
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Gail's new novel The Spawning Grounds will be published by Knopf Canada in September 2016.

Her 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 Ga

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