Shortlisted for the 1998 Giller Prize
A Globe and Mail Notable Book of 1998
Over 40,000 copies sold in hardcover
In 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 marriage
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees, brings readers once again into the heart of rural Canada with A Rhinestone Button. 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 farm boys around town. 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. 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.
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. 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 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.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz's evocative novel of one woman's simple but passionately lived life reminds of us of the pleasure to be found in human contact and simple, natural things.
Raised by her silent but companionable father and a mother who kept bees, headstrong Augusta marries shy, deferential Karl, twelve years her senior, and goes to live with him on his father's remote farm. Terrified that she will literally die from loneliness and isolation, she finds work in town, and for a short time, fulfillment with another man in a romance that will reverberate throughout her life. Not until many years later does she find her salvation in beekeeping, the practice she first learned from her mother. It is beekeeping that reconnects her to the world and at long last brings fire to her steadfast marriage.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
When fifteen-year-old Beth Week's family is attacked by a grizzly, her father becomes increasingly violent, making him a danger to his neighbors, his family, and especially Beth. Meanwhile, several young children from the nearby Indian reservation have gone missing, and Beth fears that something is pursuing her in the bush. But friendship with an Indian girl connects her to a mythology that enriches her landscape; and an unexpected protector shores up her world.
Set on an isolated Canadian farm in the midst of World War II, The Cure for Death by Lightning evokes a life at once harshly demanding and rich in sensory pleasures: the deafening chatter of starlings, the sight of thousands of painted turtles crossing a road, the smell of baking that fills the Weeks's kitchen. The novel is sprinkled throughout with recipes and remedies from the scrapbook Beth's mother keeps, a boon to Beth as she learns to face down her demons--and one of many elements that give The Cure for Death by Lightning its enchanting vitality.
Small-town journalist Claire Abbott has a sixth sense, what the fire chief calls a "radar for crime." When a string of suspicious fires breaks out in town, Claire thinks she knows who the firebug is. Or does she? She finds there is much more to the story than she imagined. Worse, no one will believe her. The firebug is getting bolder, and the fires he sets more dangerous. Claire is now in a race against time to catch the arsonist in the act before he takes a life.
Playing with Fire is the second in a series of mysteries featuring journalist and sleuth Claire Abbott.
Small-town reporter Claire Abbott wakes from a nightmare, convinced a bomb will go off in the local school. And then, strangely enough, there really is a bomb scare. After the school is cleared by police and their sniffer dog, Claire is certain the threat isn't over. People are behaving strangely. Claire believes a bomber will attack the school. But when? And who is the bomber? Claire must track down the culprit and stop him before the bomb goes off.
Race Against Time is the third novel in a series of mysteries featuring journalist and sleuth Claire Abbott.
When a young woman goes missing on a nature trail, small-town journalist Claire Abbott is first on the scene, as usual. The clues to the woman's whereabouts are misleading, but Claire has a sixth sense-what the fire chief calls a "radar for crime." Trusting her intuition, Claire insists that the search and rescue team look elsewhere for clues to the woman's disappearance. When they fail to follow up on her lead, she pursues it on her own, embarking on a snowy chase up a mountainside that puts herself and others in danger. She's more than just a journalist chasing a story. Claire is determined to do the right thing at any cost.
Search and Rescue is the first novel in a series of mysteries featuring journalist and sleuth Claire Abbott.
Cookie is about to lose her job at the local bakery. She dreams of owning her own bakery but doesn't think she has the skills or money to do it. Most of all, she doesn't have the self-confidence. When she takes a course at the local college, she finds she has much more going for her than she imagined. With the help of her community, she figures out how to make sure no one has to go without her famous doily cookies for long!