First Fiction Friday: Watershed

A near-future dystopian debut novel set in Alberta in 2058, Watershed (Freehand Books) by Calgary storyteller and musician Doreen Vanderstoop considers what happens after the glaciers are gone and water has become our most previous natural resource. 


The author: Doreen Vanderstoop is a Calgary-based writer, storyteller and musician. As a storyteller/musician, she performs for audiences of all ages at schools, libraries, festivals, conferences and more. She leads workshops to ignite in others a passion for the power of story — oral and written. Watershed is Doreen’s debut novel.Why you need to read this nowWatershed is for anyone who has wondered what climate change might mean for us, in the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, in the future. With keen vision, Doreen Vanderstoop takes us to Alberta in 2058 – a version of the future where the glaciers are gone, which has huge ramifications on water access throughout the prairies. Rivers have turned to dust and wells have dried up. In rural areas, water is delivered to cisterns by truck. In Calgary, people cart wagons full of empty bottles and jugs to refill at water stations, with a rationed amount available to purchase per person. Everyone is hoping that things will be better when the water pipeline arrives. The former oil and gas pipelines are being converted to carry desalinated water in from the Pacific Ocean.Willa is a farmer in southern Alberta, like her father and grandfather before her. Years back she and her husband, Calvin, transitioned from cattle to goats, since goats take less water. But despite all of their many eco-friendly modernizations on the farm, times are tough, and Willa and Calvin are just barely hanging on.Their son, Daniel, has just got a job in the big city, working for the water corporation. The two generations clash: Willa thinks Daniel should come home to help the family make the farm work, whereas Daniel wants to put his degree in hydrogeology to good use. When Willa learns that Daniel has also been concealing a secret about his grandfather, her beloved father, her world as she knows it falls to pieces.Watershed paints a startling version of what our future could look like – and places in its centre an ordinary, everyday family who are struggling to adapt to the changes around them and to the changes within them. It’s a book for people who love reading about families who genuinely love each other, even in the midst of challenging circumstances, and for readers who also like a dash of a good thriller. With her debut, Doreen Vanderstoop has given us a timely, fascinating pageturner of a novel – a necessary and immensely entertaining addition to the “cli-fi” (ie, climate fiction) genre. X + Y = Watershed combines the dystopian futuristic fiction of Margaret Atwood with the novels of Fred Stenson that so vividly paint a picture of life on the prairies. 

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Thanks to Kelsey Attard at Freehand Editions for sharing Watershed with us. For more First Fiction, click here.