Friday, December 24, 2010

Jen Reviews 'The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane'

 Author:  Katherine Howe
 Published:  Hyperion Voice, 2009
 How I Got It: Purchased myself
 Rating: 3.5 stars


When we first meet our main character Connie she is a graduate student stress-case.  She is preparing for a super important test that she must pass in order to continue her education.  The exam covers all aspects of American colonial history.  If you miss a question or don't answer one fully then that's it, you're out of the program.  Oh, and it's not a written test either, your mentors ask you the questions and you have to come up with your answer on the spot (talk about pressure!).  Luckily, Connie  excels and passes to exam.  It's the beginning of the summer so Connie expects that she can relax a little now.  Unfortunately, Grace, her mother has other plans.  Grace needs Connie to clean and fix up her grandmother's house that has been neglected for years.  All of a sudden it needs to be sold.  Connie isn't thrilled about spending the summer this way but she can't say no to her mother.  During her first night at the house Connie finds a mysterious key.  It intrigues her and from that point on Connie is determined to figure out what it goes to.  This is the catalyst that begins the search for Deliverance Dance's physick book.

I love historical fiction books that go back and forth between the past and present.  I love seeing how the different stories and different time periods connect.  This book was no exception.  Howe takes us on a journey to Marblehead, MA in 1991 and then back in time to Salem, MA circa 1692.  Deliverance Dane was a woman found guilty of witchcraft and was executed.  Connie just happened to come across a piece of history while doing a good deed for her mother.   Like any good historian, Connie investigates and uncovers a woman forgotten by the history books and learns some things about her family’s past.

While I did enjoy this book I felt it ended too sudden.   We find a few things out and then it seems like the book just ends.  We learn what happens to Sam but don’t get to read about what happens to him (I hope that made sense, I’m having trouble wording it without listing spoilers).

*side note* Every time I saw the name ‘Chilton’ I thought of Gilmore Girls.

I’m so glad Howe included a postscript.  Deliverance Dane was a real person (while reading the book I thought she was just a fictional character).   There’s not a lot of information about her though.  She was accused of witchcraft and spent thirteen weeks in prison but luckily, her life was spared. 

The Salem witch trials are a part of history that has always interested me.  It baffles me that a group of teenage girls were able to convince an entire town that they were in the company of witches.  That their own next door neighbors could be putting curses on other people in the town.  It was a point in history when people were extremely fearful (especially with a war occurring less than 100 miles away) but still.  I wonder if those girls felt any remorse for contributing to the panic.  But they were only a part of the uprising.  People truly believed that witchcraft was real.

What are you thoughts about the Salem witch trials?  Ever visited Salem, MA?  I live within two hours of Salem and I’ve never been!  I’d love to go but the only time other people want to go is around Halloween.  I think it would be even more crowded during that time of year and too gimmicky.


  1. Have you read The Forgotten Garden? It another historical fiction mystery that goes between the past and today.

  2. I really loved this book--I think a little more than you did. I do agree about the end but I felt ok about it. I'm really excited for what she's working on now. Did you read the interview I did with her?

  3. Hi Jen,
    Merry Christmas. If you have an interest in the Salem Witch Hunt, you might like my novel: THE AFFLICTED GIRLS A Novel of Salem, which won the 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction. (It is sometimes categorized as "metaphysical fiction.") This story reconstructs events, as well as solves the 300-year-old mystery of the "afflictions" that sparked the Salem witch hunt. "Something terrible happened in Salem Village in 1692 ... but it isn't what you think!" I hope you and others here will consider reading my book and discussing it. (Note: This is adult fiction for ages 17 and older)
    Thank you,
    Suzy Witten, Author

  4. I just read a book about the Salem witch trials and found it really interesting..terrifying too. Their methods for determining who was and wasn't a witch were pretty ineffective. I got this book for my birthday, and may bump it up higher on my TBR list, even with the ending.

  5. kenpen: That book sounds really good!

    Jamie: I loved the middle of the book! I thought it was interesting and exciting and it kept me on the edge of my seat. It was the last ten pages or so that made me knock it down a star. I did read the interview you did when you first posted it but I'm definitely going to reread it soon!

    Suzy: Thanks for the recommendation!

    Kelly: The ending was good...but to me it seemed like there was a lot of build up and then it just ended. I guess I like a little more closure. Let me know what you think of the book once you read it!

  6. Jen, I think I liked this book a little more than you too. I read it a while ago, but I don't remember being upset by the ending. I think it might have been because I figured out most of what was going on, though not all of it. On a side note, where do you live in Mass? I've been to Salem a few times, and my brother goes to school there. I've only been during Halloween once though, it was a couple of weekends before actually, and it was NUTS. They shut down the roads on Halloween night. But it's fun to go there during the slower months too, lots of museums and historic things.

  7. Tahleen: I actually don't live in MA, I live in Rhode Island. I can only imagine how busy Salem gets during the month of October! It must be interesting to go to school in there though (and probably a little creepy).

  8. This sounds really good. I've added it to my list. I really like historical fiction, and one that goes back and forth to the present. (I just finished Revolution, and absolutely loved it.) Thanks for the review-I hadn't read about this one before.

  9. I have wanted to read this book but just haven't gotten around to it...too many others ahead of it! I agree, it astounds me that teenage girls in 1690's had that much influence....but we see the same thing happen today - remember the horrific riot in CA several years ago when they pulled the truck driver out of his rig (i'm reciting from memory so I'm a bit rusty) but wasn't the riot started by just a few people that exploded into an almost out-an-out war? Us humans! I love your review though....when I get the chance I'll read the I have to see what happens to Sam!


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