Water Witches

Water Witches

Set in the Vermont countryside, Water Witches is a tale of the clash between progress and tradition, science and magic. In the midst of a nightmarish New England drought, cynical ski industry lobbyist Scottie Winston is trying to get a large ski resort the permits it needs to tap already beleaguered rivers for snow. His wife, his little girl, and his sister-in-law -- dowsers or "water witches" all -- hope to stop him, however, in this gentle, comic, life-affirming novel.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684826127 | 
  • April 1997
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
1. Chris Bohjalian's novel Water Witches explores the phenomenon of "dowsing" which is described as the practice of "divining underground water with a stick" (page 3). Within the dowsing community there are those who believe anyone can dowse and those, like Patience Avery, who insist "that only select people have the power" (page 7). With whom do you agree? Would you liken it to a spiritual art or a form of witchcraft?
2. The narrator, Scottie Winston, a slick, powerful lawyer who lobbies on behalf of Powder Peak Ski Resort, also considers himself an environmentalist. However, compared to Senator Reedy McClure, Patience's groom-to-be, he states: "I am reasonable and Reddy McClure is a fanatic" (page 22). What are your first impressions of Scottie Winston? Does your opinion of him change as the novel draws to a close?
3. Comparing his wife, Laura, with her sister, Patience, Scottie explains that Laura has been the "normal" and "traditional" one while Patience "has been the center of attention" (page 106). Discuss the relationship between Laura and Patience. In what ways is jealousy a factor?
4. Patience Avery is described as an eccentric, opinionated, yet talented, woman. When Scottie is first introduced to Patience she tells him that men "have great potential to become grotesque" (page 5). What do you suppose she means by that statement? Why do you think she is so antagonistic toward men?
5. Scottie admits that see more

About the Author

Chris Bohjalian
Photo Credit: Victoria Blewer

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of twelve novels, including the New York Times bestsellers, Secrets of Eden, The Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, and Midwives.  His work has been translated into twenty-six languages.  He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.   Visit him at www.chrisbohjalian.com or www.facebook.com .