Friday, March 25, 2011

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe


Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with the Salem witch hunts. Even as a young girl in elementary school, I read books, watched movies and loved listening to stories about the witch trials and the events leading up to them. So when I saw The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, it goes without saying that I just had to have it.

We first meet our heroine, Connie Goodwin, as she’s about to answer the final question in her qualifying exam at Harvard; “Would you please provide the committee with a succinct and considered history of witchcraft in North America?” Now, Connie is an incredibly intelligent woman, trying to impress a panel of equally intelligent – if not more so - Harvard professors with her knowledge of American Colonial history. The dialog and accompanying narrative reflected the importance of her answer, and for a brief time I found myself kind of lost in the “educated” explanation. However, once we get past that part in the story, which didn’t last very long, I easily fell into the flow and the feel of Katherine Howe’s writing.

I’ve found that sometimes when an author tackles a fictional retelling of factual historical events, it can end up boring and text bookish for the reader. I think it takes skill to stay true to the details without putting the reader to sleep. Thankfully, Katherine Howe pulled this off beautifully.

I was quickly pulled into the story and felt very much a part of Connie’s journey to find Deliverance Dane’s missing Physick Book. The glimpses into the past we were given as we moved between 1991 and the late 17th and early 18th centuries flowed very well, and I really feel like the author did a brilliant job of taking us from one time period to another, as we moved from chapter to chapter.

Along the way, Connie meets Sam, and a romance develops between them. I really enjoyed that aspect of the story because Sam was a great character, but I wish we could have seen a little more relationship development between them, so that I could have felt the depth of her emotions for him during certain parts of the book. However, that said, I thought the author did an excellent job of making his a character someone I cared about even though we didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with him. And a note for those who might be interested, while we know that Connie and Sam do have a sexual relationship, there was nothing sexually explicit in this book.

Overall, this was a great story that I couldn’t put down. It had me imaging what it would be like if I had lived during this time period, and answered questions I’ve long had. And I even shed a few tears over what it must have been like for the families of the accused.

I’d love to get my hands on something else along the lines of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and will be keeping my eyes open for more by this author.

Click here to purchase The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane from Amazon

No comments:

Post a Comment