Connie Goodwin, the central character in this book is a PhD student at Harvard. When we first meet her, she has just completed the oral examination for PhD candidacy – she is ready to begin to write the proposal for her dissertation. Manning Chilton, the chair of the history department is her main advisor, and he immediately begins to pressure her to find a new original source for her dissertation. At nearly the same moment, Connie’s mother calls her to tell her that she needs her to spend the summer cleaning out her grandmother’s long abandoned home, a home located very near to Salem, Ma.
While cleaning out the home – an ancient relic without phone or electricity – Connie begins to have some rather unusual experiences. Experiences that feel unusual to Connie, but not so unusual to Grace, Connie’s mother – who practices ‘new age’ healing. Magic, alchemy, witchcraft, mystery and love all weaver their way through the story.
As Connie cleans her grandmother’s home she finds an antique key in a seventeenth century Bible. The key has a bit of parchment rolled into it. There is a name written on the parchment: Deliverance Dane. Who is this woman? Connie’s search leads her to a church in Salem where she meets Sam, an historic preservationist. The search to learn about Deliverance leads Connie to a search for the Physick book that once belonged to Deliverance, a book of recipies, a book of spells, a book of witchcraft, of magic. The search leads Connie to discoveries about herself, her mother, her family. It leads to love and intrigue, to betrayal, and to love! All woven through with bits of engaging history about Salem, witches and the witch trials.
It’s a good read! I love when the academy and alchemy weave together!
The author’s bio says that Katherine Howe’s ancestors settled Essex County, Massachusetts in the 1620s, and stayed there through the twentieth century. Family members included Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the Salem witch trials, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. Katherine Howe is completing a PhD in American and New England Studies at Boston University, which included teaching a research seminar on New England witchcraft. The idea for this novel developed while she was studying for her doctoral qualifying exams, walking her dog through the woods between Marblehead and Salem.
Katherine Howe 2009. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. VOICE, an imprint of Hyperion.