Summary: 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. ~amazon.com
Julie's Review: I was excited when Barnes and Noble First Look Club presented The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane as their next choice. I was even more excited when I was able to read the book. This is a stunning debut novel.
The Salem witch trials have always fascinated me but imagine realizing that you were related to one of those condemned and hanged. Connie Goodwin is a a Graduate student that has just passed her oral exams and will be starting her PH.d. Her mom calls and tells her that she needs a favor, she needs Connie to go to her family's home in Marblehead and get it ready to sell. This is the beginning of Connie's adventure into her personal history and the history of the Salem Witch Trials.
Not only do we get to know Connie's story but we get to meet Deliverance Dane and her family. The book shifts back and forth between present day (1991) and history (1692-1715) which allows the reader to begin to put the puzzle pieces together before Connie. I enjoyed reading the different voices of the story since it spread over hundreds of years. You definitely get a real sense of the time period by the way Ms. Howe describes the clothing, the home, the furniture and the attitudes.
I love authors who are very descriptive without being wordy and Ms. Howe is definitely one of them. I could vividly picture the house on Milk Street, the Salem Meetinghouse, Deliverance's house and Harvard. Without these descriptions the book would have fallen flat. The supporting characters are just as interesting as Connie. Her mom Grace is a trip, Sam, Liz and of course Arlo the dog.
My only complaint is that the climax came in the last 50 pages and ended too quickly. We were there and then it was over. I guess I didn't want the book to end. There are aspects of the book that are predictable but that didn't bother me because of the story and the way it was written.
For fans of Charmed, Harry Potter, and The Craft you will thoroughly enjoy this book. If not, it's still a fantastic story about a period in American history where things that weren't true to their religious beliefs were deemed witchcraft. It calls into question what is witchcraft and how does the definition differ in the time periods explored in the book?
This book has made me want to go and pull out my copy of Arthur Miller's The Crucible (Penguin Classics) and revisit this time period.
This book will be released by Voice on 6/9/09. I recommend adding it to your wish list.
Final Take: 4.75/5