One of the very first novels by the number one bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant: a prescient, environmentalist political drama in which a small-town lawyer finds himself torn between his career and his family, and between money and the natural world.
Patience Avery is a dowser--a "water witch." With a pair of divining rods and her natural gifts, she can locate lost items, missing people--and aquifers deep within the earth. This last skill is more in demand than ever, as the normally lush, green countryside of Patience's native Vermont is in the grip of the worst drought in years: stunted cornstalks rasp in the hot July breeze, parched vegetable gardens wither and die, and the Chittenden River has shrunk to a trickle. Patience does what she can to help her neighbors find new water sources for exhausted wells, but she knows better than most that this crisis is a symptom of worse things to come.
Not that she can convince her brother-in-law, Scottie Winston, of this. Scottie's spent the long, dry summer lobbying for permits to expand Powder Peak, a local ski area that's his law firm's principal client. As part of the expansion, the resort seeks to draw water for snowmaking from the beleaguered Chittenden, despite opposition from environmentalists who fear that the already weakened river will be damaged beyond repair.
Pressure from his wife and daughter on one side--and a slew of powerful politicians, wealthy developers, and the partners at his firm on the other--pushes Scottie closer and closer to a moral crisis that will have a profound effect not just on Scottie's family, but on the future of the entire state.
Look for Chris Bohjalian's new novel, The Lioness!
In a moving, life-affirming novel suffused with ecological wisdom, a Vermont ski resort's plans for expansion collide with environmentalists seeking to preserve a mountainous wildlife habitat and riverine ecosystem. Narrator Scott Winston, a transplanted New York City lawyer who represents the ski resort, switches allegiance after he and his nine-year-old daughter spot three mountain lions in an area targeted for clearing. Complicating matters is the envy that Scott's pragmatic wife, Laura, a native Vermonter, feels toward her famed sister, Patience Avery, a dowser (water witch) who also opposes the ski resort and whose talent for locating underground springs, missing persons or lost objects with a divining rod figures prominently in the novel's denouement. The struggle between the developers and their opponents culminates in an environmental board hearing that has all the dramatic excitement of a courtroom trial. With wit, insight and mordant irony, Bohjalian (Past the Bleachers) charts Scott's metamorphosis from rationalistic materialist and skeptic to one who believes in higher powers and the interconnectedness of all life. In a refreshing twist, instead of offering a bucolic idyll, the author takes us through a Vermont beset by drought, a declining ski industry, unemployment and endangered ecosystems.