Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Published: 2009; Pages 362
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane begins when Connie, a Harvard graduate student of early American colonial studies, is called to a nearby town of Marblehead for the summer to help renovate her grandmother’s home in order to sell it. While cleaning out the dusty shelves she discovers a scroll hidden inside a key with the name Deliverance Dane. Connie, in search of a topic for her dissertation begins the dig for discovering who Deliverance Dane might have been and why her name was hidden in a Bible on her grandmother’s bookshelf.
Why I read it: My dad and stepmom gifted this book to me last Christmas (2009). I’m terribly bad about giving people books or recommendations and wanting them to finish the book immediately but failing to do so when I’m given a book. Trying to remedy that!
What I liked: I’ve always been drawn to the colonial period of America–the Antinomian Controversy, the religious tension between various sects, the Salem Witch trials, the phamphleteering of colonials and coteries of enlightened thinkers. It’s a fascinating time period and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane certainly captures much of the mystery of that time. In that respect this book really held my interest. There are two story lines–the main story of Connie, the graduate student in search of answers, and the story of Deliverance Dane in the 1680s, and both in their own ways helped propel the story.
Katherine Howe has a strong knack for drawing a picture and while some parts of the book are too heavily descriptive or even overwritten at the beginning, for the most part I really enjoyed Howe’s writing style. She withholds just enough details about the characters in the colonial time thread to keep a reader interested, and she puts an interesting spin on the perception and even theories about the Salem Witch Crisis. This book reminded me a lot of The Heretic’s Daughter and I think if you enjoyed that book, you’ll enjoy this one as well.
Small Bones: I feel like I’m perhaps being overly picky here, but The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was rather predictable and while I did find a few surprises, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when the characters discovered something I had seen coming for a hundred pages. And I’m a dense reader. Every week when Scott and I watch NCIS he says 20 minutes into the show “Want me to tell you who did it?” NO!! I don’t try to figure out books or movies or TV shows before the end because I like to be surprised or maybe I just don’t want to be let down. However, small bone because it didn’t ruin the book for me–just didn’t work as a plus.
The Bottom Line: Despite the predictability and some overwriting The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was an enjoyable book. It was my last book of 2010 and it was a solid way to end the year. Both my parents enjoyed the book more than I did and I think that many others would as well. While I love reading about this time period, it is hard to make the subject matter novel. Howe definitely puts her own spin on the story, but somehow I was left wanting just a little bit more. Picky Trish, but I hope you’ll enjoy it!
What are your favorite books about the Salem Witch Crisis?
I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane or any other Amazon product through this review I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. Thanks!