Friday, August 23, 2013

Alice's Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

 Summary: 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.

Review:  The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane centers around Connie, a Harvard graduate student.  After a timely request from her mother to close her grandmother’s house, Connie moves to a town outside Salem, MA.  The house is no prize, in fact it was downright scary:   no electricity, overgrown yard, located off the main road.  I wouldn’t walk onto the house in the daylight, let alone at night.  After finding a key with a name in it in a bible, Connie begins a quest to find who is Deliverance Dane.  I loved the journey to the past.  I found the foundation story of Deliverance and Mercy Dane wonderful.  I thought it was brilliant for Ms. Howe to pen it in old English.  It was challenging for me to read, but really enjoyable.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is beautifully written, but there wasn’t a connection there for me to the modern day story.  I guess it’s acceptable for witches to roam the 17th Century but they have no place in the 21st.  Small-minded, I know.  This comes mostly from the fear that witches do exist.  Then again, I’m not a fan of the occult in literature.  That is probably my biggest issue with this novel.  In spite of it, I found myself continuously drawn to the characters and events in the story.  I wanted to know what happened next.  My personal beliefs on the subject aside, I believe the novel is wonderful for someone interested in the Salem trials and a modern day girl’s connection to them.  Kudos to Ms. Howe for writing a twisted and interesting plot.  This novel was a page-turner. 

I feel as if I’m being unfair with this review.  It’s not that the novel is terrible, because it isn’t.  Ms. Howe is a gifted writer, a natural storyteller who captured her reader and doesn’t let them go until the very end.  It’s not that I didn’t like it because I did.  There was simply something missing for me.  It’s probably the subject matter and the disconnect I felt with the main character.  I understood why Connie was so structured and slightly pretentious, but that doesn’t mean I have to like her.  My favorite character in the novel was Grace, Connie’s earthy and holistic mom.  I just adore characters like that, mostly because I don’t take them seriously even though I know deep inside they seriously believe in the power of aura and crystals and all that other nonsense.  Grace provided me with some genuine laughter and this novel sorely needed it.

Had I know the story would involve modern day sorcery, I know I wouldn’t have read it. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t know because I enjoyed this novel and am thankful Julie included in our challenge. I still wish I had checked it out of the library instead of paying for it.
Final Take:  3/5

Julie's Review


Rhiannon August 23, 2013 at 7:52 AM  

I listened to this in my car and loved it. This is my style of book all the way.

Jenn August 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM  

While I love the modern occult, but couldn't get into the historical parts... one day I'll try this one again.

Anonymous ,  August 24, 2013 at 12:15 AM  

I've had this one on my shelf so long I'd forgotten all about it. I'm not into modern occult stories, but some of this appeals to me!

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