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Fiction Small Town & Rural

The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning

by (author) Audrey J. Whitson

NeWest Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2019
Small Town & Rural, Literary, Ghost
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2019
    List Price

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Finalist for the 2020 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize!
Three years into the second millennium, Majestic, Alberta is a farm town dealing with depressed crop prices, international borders closing to Canadian beef, and a severe drought. Older farmers worry about their way of life changing while young people concoct ways to escape: drugs, partying, moving away. Even the church is on the brink of closing.

When local woman Annie Gallagher is struck by lightning while divining water for a well, stories of the town’s past, including that of Annie and the grandmother who taught her water witching, slowly pour forth as everyone gathers for her funeral.

Told through the varied voices of the townspeople and Annie herself, The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning reveals Majestic to be a complex character in its own right, both haunted and haunting. Here, Audrey J. Whitson has written a novel of hard choices and magical necessity.
Praise for The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning:
“Despite the lemon squares and the familiar agri-business headlines, this is not a domestic novel. Rather, The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning reads as if it has come out of translation, out of a language created and shared within a community formed by geography, memory, and its own expedient, indefinable spirituality. It’s a funeral story told in forks of lightning, dozen of voices, flashing in and out of transfiguration. Like a good translation, it’s unafraid to leave in shadows what it can assume everyone already knows, rushing instead to throw light on what—until now—has been unknowable.”
~ Jennifer Quist, author of The Apocalypse of Morgan Turner
"With humour and heart, Whitson peels back the small-town preoccupations of a winning cast of characters, laying bare the mysterious undercurrents of their world and beyond. Annie the water diviner is a force to be reckoned with, even after her death. This book is lyrical and lovely, a stunning achievement."
~ Fran Kimmel, author of No Good Asking and The Shore Girl
"Majestic is depicted with poetic complexity. Annie's friends have a salt-of-the-earth goodness, and Annie herself is a faceted, compelling woman who emerges from personal darkness to find her own peace."
~ Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews
”Whitson’s novel is, by the end, a reckoning with the past, both personal and communal, but also a tale of joy—the earthy preparations for the dead and a divining born of the body.”
~ Bryn Evans, Alberta Views
"It’s tricky business, allowing so many voices to create the narrative in a story, but Audrey Whitson has linked these people together not only as people who loved Annie, but as community. Relationships with Annie emerge, and so too do the intimate details of the lives of her neighbours."
~ Betty Jane Hegerat, author of The Boy and Delivery
"[a] stunningly written novel...."
~ All Lit Up

About the author

Audrey J. Whitson’s first book, Teaching Places (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003), a memoir about how the land teaches, was shortlisted for the Wilfred Eggleston Award, Grant MacEwan Author Award and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year (body/mind/spirit category). Stories from The Glorious Mysteries (Thistledown, 2013)—a collection set in Alberta, California, and Mexico—were shortlisted for the Howard O’Hagan Award and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her latest book, The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning, is forthcoming in Spring 2019. Her poetry and essays have been published in many magazines and anthologies and have also won awards. Audrey lives in Edmonton. To learn more about her work, visit

Audrey J. Whitson's profile page


  • Nominated, Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize