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The Physick Book of Deliverance Daneby Katherine Howe
Connie moves into her grandmother's house to ready it for sale. She stumbles upon an ancient key with a tiny piece of paper rolled up inside that which reads: "Deliverance Dane." The search for the meaning of this phrase leads Connie to witches, hangings, a bit of romance, a little supernatural phenomenon, and an elusive spell book. Katherine Howe is an art historian and her own ancestors include Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor, both of whom were tried in the Salem witch trials. Howe uses her own family stories here in this suspenseful read.
Synopses & Reviews
Connie Goodwin should be spending her summer doing research for her Ph.D. dissertation in American History. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she's compelled to help. It's not long before the time she's set aside for research is instead spent sorting through her grandmother's ancient possessions, discovering a woman she barely knew.
One day, while exploring the dusty bookshelves in the study, Connie discovers a key hidden within an old bible. And within the key is a brittle slip of paper with two words written on it: Deliverance Dane. Along with a handsome steeplejack named Sam, Connie begins to dig into the town's records, looking for references to Deliverance Dane. But even as the pieces begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the witch trials so long ago, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past than she could have ever imagined.
Written by an author completing a Ph.D. in New England Studies, and whose ancestors were accused witches in Salem, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the trials in the 1690s and a modern woman's story of mystery and discovery.
"Set in Cambridge and Marblehead, Mass., Howe's propulsive if derivative novel alternates between the 1991 story of college student Connie Goodwin and a group of 17th-century outcasts. After moving into her grandmother's crumbling house to get it in shape for sale, Connie comes across a small key and piece of paper reading only 'Deliverance Dane.' The Salem witch trials, contemporary Wicca and women's roles in early American history figure prominently as Connie does her academic detective work. What follows is a breezy read in which Connie must uncover the mystery of a shadowy book written by the enigmatic Deliverance Dane. During Connie's investigation, she relies on a handsome steeplejack for romance and her mother and an expert on American colonial history for clues and support. While the twisty plot and Howe's habit of ending chapters with cliffhangers are straight out of the thriller playbook, the writing is solid overall, and Howe's depiction of early American life and the witch trials should appeal to readers who enjoyed The Heretic's Daughter. The witchcraft angle and frenetic pacing beg for a screen adaptation. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This charming novel is both a tale of New England grad-student life in 1991 and the Salem witch hunts in 1692. The year 1991 is important here because historical data were not yet entirely computerized; if you were a university researcher, your destiny was to spend the Lord's amount of hours hunched over card catalogues to find volumes you needed in the library. It took forever and ruined your posture... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) and your disposition. And cell phones, though extant, were owned by few. It was a time when we hovered between technologies. A little like the 1690s, when we were certainly past the Dark Ages, but the scientific method was not yet widespread. In 1991, Connie Goodwin is a graduate student at Harvard in American Colonial studies. She's embedded in that life, living in student housing with her best friend, a classicist named Liz. She prods and bullies Thomas, her anxiety-ridden protege, and she is, in turn, completely under the thumb of an intolerable professor, Manning Chilton, a Boston Brahmin bachelor who wears club ties, shows his teeth in a thin-lipped smile and delights in tormenting his best student, Connie. He is her graduate adviser and should be on her side, but even as she passes her oral examination, which will advance her to candidacy for her doctorate, he begins to nag her to come up with a suitable dissertation topic. Non-academic life intervenes. Connie's mother, Grace, an aging hippie in Santa Fe, phones to say that her own mother's house in the town of Marblehead, Mass., must be sold to pay back property taxes. Could Connie please go up there, spend the summer cleaning up the place and get it ready for sale? Connie is exasperated, but she complies. The house is completely hidden from view, lost in shrubbery. (Her dog, Arlo, an important character in this story, is the one who finds it.) Connie's grandma Sophia lived in it as late as the '50s, but there's no telephone, no electricity and just one oil lamp. The place is a couple of hundred years old, at least, and sports a fireplace that doubled as a stove in days past, fitted out with iron bars designed to hang kettles and cauldrons on. Everything is covered with dust, and the garden is overrun with rank herbs. Arlo happily brings in a dirt-clumped mandrake root, generally used for casting deadly spells. Spooky! The first night there, unable to sleep, Connie creeps downstairs to look through shelves of old books. "She had never really known Sophia," she thinks. "Who was this odd, stubborn woman?" At that moment, the Bible she's holding springs open, giving her something like a nasty electric shock, and a key falls out, with the name Deliverance Dane written on a rolled piece of paper. What can this possibly mean? Connie vows to find out. Meanwhile, we've been following the back story of the real Deliverance Dane in the 1680s and '90s, as she lives the life of a quiet but accomplished village woman, very skilled in healing the sick, but racking up more than her share of enemies. It's worth saying here that the author, Katherine Howe, has spent time as a graduate student in New England studies, and that she is a descendant of two women who endured the Salem panic of 1692, one of whom survived, one who didn't. Her central thesis in this novel (if a pleasant thriller can be said to have a thesis), is that, while we may think of the witch hunts as symbolic of the decline of the Puritan theocracy or as a cultural shiver between the age of superstition and the Age of Enlightenment, the good folk of Salem thought they were hunting real witches. They believed — with deadly certainty — that fellow citizens were putting the entire community in actual danger through the use of malicious magic. Along with this, Howe floats the idea that there are still, right now, genuine psychic healers — maybe witches — among us. (A clerk in a modern-day tourist shop that features witch paraphernalia offers to make Connie a charm — because, by now, in her search to find out about Deliverance Dane, she might be in danger. When Connie scoffingly refuses the offer, the clerk warns her, "Just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it isn't real.") Connie neglects her housekeeping duties and gallivants from town to New England town, trying to pin down the identity of Deliverance Dane. Along the way, she meets a handsome, intelligent fellow who has also done graduate work and makes a living now as a steeplejack. They share a common interest in the past and develop a very sweet romance. And Connie tracks down fact after fact, name after name in card catalogues across the region. She is consistently hectored by two people: her mother, who finally accuses her of not being able to see what's right in front of her face, and Manning Chilton, who not only exhorts her to come up with a dissertation topic but to "look vigorously for new source bases." In other words, he wants her to find fresh material so he can steal it for himself, the fiendish cad! I liked this book very much, but I want to ask the author's editor to please, in the future, keep her from wrapping or folding her characters' arms around their middles. And also point out that Connie's shoulder bag gets dropped on the floor so often it begins to sound like a character itself. But these are minor complaints. And by the end of this book, as any graduate student should, Katherine Howe has filled us in on much more than we used to know about that group of unfortunate women who paid the price of their lives due to a town's irrational fears. Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"If you need some magic in your life...lose yourself in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane." Real Simple
"Howe's spellbinding, vividly detailed, witty, and astutely plotted debut is...a keen and magical historical mystery laced with romance and sly digs at society's persistent underestimation of women." Booklist (starred review)
"A fresh present-day story infused with an original take on popular history....here are witches that could well be walking among us today. ...flows with poetic charm and eloquence....Katherine Howe's talent is spellbinding." Matthew Pearl, author of The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club
"Howe inserts short interludes featuring Deliverance and her descendants, adding depth to the story. Howe's own connection to Salem (two of her ancestors were accused of witchcraft) adds a welcome personal touch." Library Journal
Written by an author completing a Ph.D. in New England Studies, and whose ancestors had been accused witches in Salem, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the trials in the 1690s and a modern woman's story of mystery and discovery.
"A fresh present-day story infused with an original take on popular history. Forget broomsticks and pointy hats; here are witches that could well be walking among us today. This debut novel flows with poetic charm and eloquence that achieves high literary merit while concocting a gripping supernatural puzzler. Katherine Howe's talent is spellbinding."
--Matthew Pearl, author of The Poe Shadow and The Dante Club
A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history-the Salem witch trials.
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.
Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman's story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation.
About the Author
Katherine Howe is completing a Ph.D. in American and New England Studies from Boston University. The idea for this novel developed while she was studying for her Ph.D. exams, walking her dog through the woods between Marblehead and Salem. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with her husband.
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