The year is 1941. For the Weeks family on their frontier farm in Western Canada, life is brutally hard, with moments of joy few and far between. Fifteen-year-old Beth Weeks narrates this coming-of-age story, which is sprinkled with recipes, home remedies and useful homesteading advice (e.g., how to kill and clean a chicken: keep it calm, since ""there's nothing as frustrating as trying to kill a panicked chicken""). Though the inventory of authentic period detail is evocative, make no mistake: this is no warmhearted tale of pioneer life. Forget square dances and barn raisings; think bestiality and incest. Beth's tortured, demanding father, mentally ill following a traumatic bear attack and the lingering effects of a head injury he received in WWI, goes on one rampage after another. Beth, meanwhile, does her best to fight off various sexual predators, finding solace of sorts in a tentative love affair with Nora, a troubled half-Indian girl. But Coyote, a sinister shape-changing spirit, stalks them and others, infusing the plot with a weird mystical aura at odds with the hardscrabble realism of the descriptions of day-to-day life. A dysfunctional Little House on the Prairie, this bleak, violent saga is a disturbing mixture of period minutiae and grim supernatural phenomena. (May) FYI: The Cure for Death by Lightning is based on a short story that won the Canadian Broadcasting Company's literary competition in 1993.