J.A.'s Reviews > The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
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's review
Jan 13, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: autographed, arc, book-books
Recommended for: Wicked fans
Read in January, 2009

This book won't be out for a few more months, but I read an advance copy since I will be meeting the author next week at Winter Institute. If half of the authors coming to the Institute are as interesting as Katherine Howe I’m in for a real treat! Howe is a rarity – a poker-playing PhD who writes exquisite fiction. What else might you expect from a descendant of Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor, two of the women accused of witchcraft in Salem?

What if some of those women weren’t falsely condemned, though? What if at least one of them, Deliverance Dane, was in fact a practitioner of arcane arts? That is the approach that Howe has taken in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. She may have been a witch, and while she was not falsely condemned, she was certainly wrongfully condemned, for witchcraft, though arcane, is not diabolical in this compelling tale.

Connie Goodwin, a PhD candidate at Harvard, has her dissertation research derailed by an odd request from her eccentric mother. At her mother’s behest she spends the summer in Marblehead, Mass., attempting to resuscitate her grandmother’s vacant home into salable condition. In doing so she uncovers a new line of inquiry into a dark chapter of the colony’s history, the hysteria which produced the Salem witch trials. An antique key leads her on a path of discovery, unlocking the secrets of the true nature of witchcraft, which may not have been eradicated by the trials after all. In the first chapter Connie survives her own trial by fire: her oral exam for admittance to the PhD program. By the book’s end she faces another sort of trial, and her acceptance into an even more exclusive apprenticeship depends upon her survival. As Howe’s proxy discovers more about the mysterious practice of witchcraft it becomes apparent that Howe knows a thing or two about the practice of wordcraft.

I’m excited to meet her at Winter Institute, but I don’t think I’ll be playing poker with her!

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01/15/2009 page 31
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