The Cure for Death by Lightning

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The Cure for Death by Lightning
First edition (Canadian)
Author Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Country Canada
Language English language
Publisher Knopf Canada
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 294
ISBN 0-394-28157-8

The Cure for Death by Lightning is the debut novel from Canadian author Gail Anderson-Dargatz. It was nominated for the Giller Prize, was awarded the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and became a bestseller in Canada (selling over 100,000 copies) and Great Britain (where it won a Betty Trask Award).[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

Set in an isolated farming community in Shuswap Country,[2] British Columbia at the end of the Second World War it is a coming of age story containing elements of magic realism.[3] Fifteen-year-old Beth Weeks has to contend with her family's struggle against poverty but also her increasingly paranoid and aggressive father whose behaviour leaves the family as outcasts in the community. A number of unusual characters appear in the book, including Filthy Billy a hired hand with tourettes and Nora a sensual half-Native girl whose mother has an extra little finger and a man's voice. The title of the book comes from one of a number of household tips and recipes belonging to her mother which appear as asides throughout the book, whilst the mother herself withdraws from reality and talks with her dead mother; leaving Beth to be sexually molested by her father...


  • 'Some first novelists tiptoe. Not Gail Anderson-Dargatz. She makes her debut in full stride, confidently breaking the rules to create a fictional style we might call Pacific Northwest Gothic' - Boston Sunday Globe[4]
  • Canadian Literature quarterly criticizes the 'somewhat ponderous plot' but praises the 'acuteness of vision' and 'sharp rendition of the breathless, sensate moment' as the 'magic in the ordinary' is revealed.[5]

Publication history[edit]