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The Cure for Death by Lightning    by Gail Anderson-Dargatz order for
Cure for Death by Lightning
by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2002 (1996)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

The mountains and valleys of British Columbia are the backdrop for this insightful book by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. It's a powerful story, about homesteaders trying to make ends meet, as they struggle to survive not only the elements but also the black moods and paranoia that have attacked Beth's father since shrapnel lodged in his head during the First World War. Another war has begun and Beth's older brother Dan keeps threatening to enlist, while her mother tries hard to keep the family from being totally ostracized by the locals - their visitors are down to bible-thumping gossip Mrs. Bell, Bertha (a matriarch from the local Indian tribe) and her numerous offspring.

Beth works hard on the farm and walks several miles across country to school. She gives this up when she becomes the target of bullies, and spends hours with one of Bertha's granddaughters, exploring the countryside and learning many of the local legends. Beth suffers a great deal of trauma during the time that we visit the family, but somehow manages to stay clear-headed about her circumstances. Her mother is not as able to withstand the problems created in the household. She finds her own outlet by talking with her deceased mother, and keeping a scrapbook of recipes and newspaper cuttings of events that she deems relevant. His erratic behaviour eventually forces Beth's father to seek help, but not quite voluntarily, and Beth and her mother have to learn how to run the farm while Dan is away in training for the army.

This novel keeps the imagination working. The vividness of the prose allows us to see the area around Salmon Arm. And the detail of life in this rural setting evokes the smell of baking and flowers, the manure in the barn and fresh milk, the electric tang of a lightning storm and visions of the purple rain after a twister ravishes the flax fields. The Cure for Death by Lightning is a powerful, suspenseful tale, that works on many levels. The reader feels empathy for Beth and horror at what she endured.

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