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"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 captures the heart and imagination, as filled with the magic and mystery of life as it is with its lurking evils and gut-wrenching hardships. The Cure for Death by Lightning sold more than a staggering 100,000 copies in Canada alone and became a bestseller in Great Britain, later to be published in the United States and Europe. It was nominated for the Giller Prize, the richest fiction prize in Canada, and received a Betty Trask Award in the U. K. The Cure for Death by Lightning takes place in the poor, isolated farming community of Turtle Valley, British Columbia, in the shadow of the Second World War. The fifteenth summer of Beth Weeks's life is full of strange happenings: a classmate is mauled to death; children go missing on the nearby reserve; an unseen predator pursues Beth. She is surrounded by unusual characters, including Nora, the sensual half-Native girl whose friendship provides refuge; Filthy Billy, the hired hand with Tourette's Syndrome; and Nora's mother, who has a man's voice and an extra little finger. Then there's the darkness within her own family: her domineering, shell-shocked father has fits of madness, and her mother frequently talks to the dead. Beth, meanwhile, must wrestle with her newfound sexuality in a harsh world where nylons, perfume and affection have no place. Then, in a violent storm, she is struck by lightning in her arm, and nothing is quite the same again. She decides to explore the dangers of the bush. Beth is a strong, honest, and compassionate heroine, bringing hope and joy into an environment that is often cruel. The character of Beth's haunted mother infuses the book with life by means of her scrapbook of recipes scattered throughout, with luscious descriptions of food, gardening, and remedies, both practical and bizarre. Seen through Beth's eyes, the West Coast landscape is full of beauty and mysteries, with its forests and rivers, and its rich native culture. The Globe and Mail commented that The Cure for Death by Lightning was "Canadian to the core," with hints of Susannah Moodie and Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Anderson-Dargatz's vision of rural life has drawn comparisons with William Faulkner and John Steinbeck. A magic realism reminiscent of Latin American literature is also present, as flowers rain from the sky, and men turn into animals. Yet the style of The Cure for Death by Lightning, which the Boston Globe called "Pacific Northwest Gothic," is wholly original. Launched in a year with more than the usual number of excellent first novels (1996 was also the year of Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald and Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels), this book with its assured voice heralds a worthy successor to Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence and Alice Munro.
International BestsellerShortlisted for the 1998 Giller PrizeA Globe and Mail Notable Book of 1998Over 40,000 copies sold in hardcoverIn A Recipe for Bees, Gail Anderson-Dargatz gives readers a remarkable woman to stand beside Hagar Shipley and Daisy Goodwin -- but Augusta Olsen also has attitude, a wicked funny bone, and the dubious gift of second sight.At home in Courtenay, B.C., Augusta anxiously awaits news of her dearly loved son-in-law Gabe, who is undergoing brain surgery miles away in Victoria. Her best friend Rose is waiting for Augusta to call as soon as she hears. Through Rose, we begin to learn the story of Augusta's sometimes harsh, sometimes magical life: the startling vision of her mother's early death; the loneliness of her marriage to Karl and her battle with Karl's detestable father, Olaf. We are told of her gentle, platonic affair with a church minister, of her not-so-platonic affair with a man from the town, and the birth of her only child. We also learn of the special affinity between Rose and Augusta, who share the delights and exasperations of old age.Just as The Cure for Death by Lightning offers recipes and remedies, A Recipe for Bees is saturated with bee lore, and is full of rich domestic detail, wondrous imagery culled from rural kitchens and gardens, shining insights into ageing, family and friendship. And at its heart, is the life, death and resurrection of an extraordinary marriageFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
As funny as it is tender, it is a novel full of true-to-life characters, natural wonder, and sweet surprises. Despite growing up in the small farming town of Godsfinger, Alberta, Job Sunstrum was always a bit of an outsider. A thin young man with blond, curly hair, he loved baking and cooking, and certainly did not fit in with the rough-and-tumble farmboys around town. There wasn't much understanding to be had at home on the family farm, either, where his domineering father and bully of a brother ran roughshod over his life. But even when Job takes over the farm after his father's death and his brother's departure to train as a pastor, his community remains his animals, and perhaps the church women with whom he shares his baking on Sundays. Lonely beyond belief, overwhelmed by religious guilt, and taut with fear at the thought of what life might have in store for him, Job can only turn to God and hope that someday, things will turn around: he will find a nice Christian woman to marry, and settle down to the farming life, as his father had before him. Only his synesthesia -- his ability to see sounds as colours, and feel vibrations as solid forms -- provides him with passing moments of solace, but it also reaffirms for him that he experiences the world in a way the other people of Godsfinger could not possibly understand. And that there is some sort of knowledge that everyone else shares, a certainty, that must have skipped him by. Then one year, Job's "tightly coiled" life begins to fall apart, and even the small sureties that got him through the days are torn away from him. His brother Jacob and his family return to live on the farm, pushing Job out of his home and into the hired hand's cabin. His neighbour Will, the closest thing he has to a friend, is exposed to the town as gay and Job is consumed with guilt by association. The colours even disappear from sounds. Faced with change on every level and not knowing how to live outside the world he was brought up in, Job allows himself to be caught up in the Pentecostal drive of a preacher named Jack Divine, in hopes that clinging to his beliefs, proving his faith, and doing what others expect of him will make everything all right. But when his new-found religious fervour only accelerates his despair and his world continues to crumble, Job is surprised to find that true faith can be found in earthly experiences, and come from the most unlikely of sources. That a world without the familiar colours and shapes of sound is not half-heard, as he feared, but freed to break out in song. Like Gail Anderson-Dargatz's previous novels, A Rhinestone Button is a loving and magical portrait of small-town life that makes us question what we believe is real, and true. Just as sounds leap to Job's eyes in vivid explosions of colour, the words on these pages are landmines of image and meaning, bringing the people and the landscape of Godsfinger to life in our own minds. We can hear the whistle of ducks' wings as they fly overhead, and smell the warm grassy breath of curious cows as they cluster around our chairs. Characters break through the molds of what's expected by their neighbours, and by us, and populate the towns of our imaginings. There's Dithy Spitzer, the town oddball who patrols the streets with her water pistol and lectures people on safety, yet has an oracle's ability to speak the truth; Darren, a messed-up, adultering husband haunted by the ghost of his father, whose past makes one wonder how he survived at all; Ed, Will's ex-lover, who helps Job understand that being a good man is about more than who you have sex with; and of course Liv, a hippie waitress who doesn't believe in God, but does believe, and ultimately leads Job to a new level of faith. And Gail Anderson-Dargatz brings her readers right along with him, on a synesthetic journey that reaffirms...
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