By Chris Bohjalian
Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Simon & Schuster, c1995, 1997
Genre: General fiction, eco-fiction
Series: Hardscrabble Books –fiction of New England published by University Press of New England
Intended audience: Adult
Number of pages: 340
Setting: Central Vermont
Time period: mid 1990s
Plot summary: Scott Winston works as a lawyer for the ski industry in rural Vermont. He is also a member of a family of dowsers – or water witches – (by marriage), who have lived in the area for generations. When a severe drought hits Vermont as a ski resort is trying to expand, Scottie finds himself at the center of an environmental conflict framed as jobs vs. the environment. This would not be a new situation for him except that he and his nine year old daughter, Miranda, have witnessed something so rare that it completely changes his perspective on life.
Pacing: Most of the chapters are short and have plenty of breaks between scenes which propel parts of this story quite quickly; in spite of this, I found this book to be a slower read for me.
Characterization: The story is told in first person by Scottie. The most important secondary characters are members of Scott’s family: his wife – Laura, his sister-in-law – Patience, and his daughter – Miranda.
Frame: “Some people say that my wife’s sister is a witch” (p. 3). The story opens with Scott describing his sister-in-law, an active dowser who makes her living by finding what people ask her to seek (usually water). Multiple dichotomies frame this story: magic and science, male and female, conservation and progress.
Story line: An uplifting and heartwarming story with as many twists and turns as the labyrinth planned by one of Patience’s friends for her wedding.
Vermont — Fiction.
Dowsers — Fiction
Lawyers — Vermont — Fiction
Ski resorts — Vermont — Fiction
Environmental protection — Vermont – Fiction
Similar authors: Alice Hoffman, Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve
Personal notes: I really enjoyed this story even though it was a slower read for me. I thought the characters were well developed and very believable, especially Scottie. I really enjoyed the ending, since it caught me a bit off guard.
Other (themes, diversity): Diversity – dowsers
The Skeptic’s Dictionary take on dowsing