I just finished “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” by Katherine Howe and it is officially one of my top new favorite books! What an amazing read surrounding the historical time period of the Salem witch trials.
Main character Connie Goodwin, while doing research for her doctoral dissertation and trying to clean-up (at the request of her mother) her grandmother’s ancient-looking, overgrown abandoned house near Salem, discovers much more than she ever bargained for in regards to both historical evidence on the Salem witch trials and her own family history.
This book flips back and forth with effortless ease between characters of the 169os in Salem and nearby towns and Connie in the modern era of 1991. As a reader you’ll never feel lost, only more and more intrigued by the mystery that Connie is uncovering. In fact, the book will drawn you in so far, you’ll feel as if you are in the book too.
When she finds a key and a little piece of paper in a dust-covered family heirloom Bible with the name Deliverance Dane on it, she starts to unravel a story of a woman you’ll never forget. I guarantee you’ll never think of the Salem witch trials, or the women accused, the same ever again. Connie’s dissertation work depends on finding a Physick (or recipe) book, but it becomes so much more than that to Connie. It is a story of redemption for the character, Deliverance Dane and all her descendants, as many who were accused and killed during the witch trails were unjustly sentenced.
I was always intrigued by the Salem witch trials. Maybe it is just because I am interested in all things history. But I always felt there was more to the story than just that these women were accused of being witches. Evidence, as the book follows, points to the fact that these women were God-fearing women who happened to have the medicinal gift of using various herb concoctions and prayers to promote healing. Since it was before the time of medical doctors, these women took care of the people in their communities.
I think that Howe did a superb job in educating the reader about the history of this time period through the eyes of the accused. She gives us an historical look at the stereotypical descriptions of witches and why they came about, but also reminds us that they were regular Puritan-garbed women. I mentioned to Howe that I was curious about how many of these women seemed so religious and used prayer along with their concoctions. It seemed that their gifts of healing were God sent. Many women and their husbands were respected members of their Puritan communities.
Howe replied to me on Facebook, when I mentioned my curiosity about the accused being contradictorily Christian: “I address that question a bit in this talk given at Google last year (careful, it’s about 30 minutes long) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5L36OrxM-c.” For more video on the book and why and how she wrote it, view here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_OBQ3QSb4g&feature=related. She has some great interviews on YouTube.
The author, Katherine Howe, is in fact a descendant of both Elizabeth Proctor(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Proctor), who you might know because her character was fictiously dramatized for The Crucible, and Elizabeth Howe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_How), the latter who did not survive the Salem witch trials.
Not only was the story good and the plot tight, it was great writing overall. Her vocabulary is phenomenal and her voice is so strong and poignant. The characters are firmly formed, detailed, and delightful. You will leave this book with an emotional attachment to the characters and to the souls of the women who endured the Salem witch trials. She could very well become one of the best known American historical fiction writers ever. In fact, she recently told me via Facebook that another book is on the way this year, not a direct sequel though, and I can’t wait to read it. However, I did hear that a sequel including Connie will come at some point.
I don’t often read books over again, but this is one I would even though I’ve discovered the mystery already along with main character Connie. It is completely spellbinding and mystical (and no, I’m not even trying to make a play on words with “spell”). Her story and her writing truly do amaze me and I hope to continue to read much more of her in years to come.
If you’d like more information on the author Katherine Howe go online to www.katherinehowe.com and view her awesome website, and for the book http://www.physickbook.com. Here’s a trailer for the book as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcJxKLw8-M8&NR=1.