In The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Connie Goodwin is about to start writing her dissertation when her mother asks her to clean out her grandmother's house so it can be put up for sale. Covered in vines with no phone or power service, the old house, located just outside Salem, Massachusetts, is a relict from another time. Connie has a lot on her mind, her mentor is putting pressure in her to write something amazing, her mom lives in a world of her own, and she's been having headaches and strange visions since she entered the house. Unable to sleep and looking for something to read, she comes across a key and a note in a Bible; a note with just a name, Deliverance Dane.
This intrigues Connie and she sets out to find the person behind name. She comes across a startling discovery. Deliverance was a woman tried for witchcraft during the Salem Witch trials. She was also the owner of a mysterious book of spells that has been lost for hundreds of years. Connie always believed that the witchcraft in Salem was the result of mass hysteria but this evidence causes her to question this rational explanation. Maybe the magic they feared was real. Now Connie is on the hunt for Deliverance's Physick to prove her theory and find the connection between the Puritan woman and her grandmother.
I can't believe how fast I read this. It was fascinating (or should I say spellbinding- har-de-har-har). Everytime I had to put it down, I couldn't wait to get back to it. I read it cover to cover. Even Howe's notes were interesting. Katherine Howe is a descendant of two accused witches and is finishing a PhD in American and New England Studies. She did a lot of research for this book and it shows. It might even be a little heavy on the scholarly details, but the story is impressive.
Everyone assumes that the people accused were innocent of witchcraft but in the novel Deliverance is not. She was a cunning woman who used her power and her book to help her fellow New Englanders. When things get crazy, they turn on her. But Deliverance makes sure the book is in safe hands and encourages her daughter to keep up the craft. Throughout the novel, in sections titled Interludes, we trace the path of the Physick as it passes in and out of the hands of her descendants. We have to keep reading to find out where it ends up.
All of this is unknown to Connie. She shifts through old documents hidden away in archives around New England, following a paper trail that dates back to the 1600s. Not exciting enough for you? There is also romance, magic and a really special dog.
This is a fun summer read, not really as serious as other books about the Witch Trials, but it has just enough detail to feel like historical fiction. The only real complaint I have is that I found Connie to be a little slow on the uptake for someone so smart. If I could put two and two together, why couldn't she?
Katherine Howe has a website with more information about the book (be warned: there is music)
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This was an ARC from Hyperion. Thanks.