The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
I had started a different book when I walked by the bargain bestsellers table at a certain large chain bookseller. That book was quickly shuffled to the bottom of my reading list when I saw this one. Reading the inside jacket, it quickly became a no brainer to buy this book. The fact that it was only $6.98 was just icing on the cake. I had a couple hours to blow before my next commitment and I have to say, this book did its job superbly. (This is why a book store is the perfect place to kill time.)
I should probably preface with the fact that the Salem witch trials and Colonial America held quite the sway over my imagination during my childhood. With that being said, this story is a delightful way for me to indulge in that imagination as an adult. There’s witchcraft and magic tempered by the reassuring feel of old books with dusty leather spines written in flowing letters.
Connie was just accepted to her candidacy for a Ph. D. in colonial history when her mother informs her that her grandmother’s house needs to be cleaned out so that it can be sold. Connie and her mother don’t always see eye to eye (think Saphy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous), but Connie agrees to go take care of the house nonetheless, in spite of the fact that her grandmother passed away twenty years ago. During her first night in the house (which she believes to have been built sometime in the 17th century), Connie picks up one of the old family Bibles and a golden key falls out. Attached to the key is a small slip of paper on which she can barely make out the name Deliverance Dane. As a historian, Connie’s curiosity is immediately piqued and she sets out to find out who Deliverance Dane was.
This book is fascinating. In spite of my biology degrees, I’ve always had a weakness for history and for people who spend their lives hunting it down. Watching Connie riffle through old probate records and the membership records for a church was spellbinding (no pun intended). I totally nerded out about being able to see where historians actually go to follow a lead and I have to admit there were parts that I am super jealous of.
The only thing that tripped me up about the story was that there were a parts where I could totally see the truth of something, but it took the character quite a while to catch up to me. That part was mildly frustrating. But I have to tell you, that was the only thing that was mildly frustrating. The characters are both believable and human. The lead character is immensely easy to identify with, especially if you have a mother that’s even remotely different from you.
The house is practically a character in and of itself: located at the end of a street, hidden away behind tangles of vines that have grown up over the fence, the house felt like a living, breathing entity. The fact that it didn’t have electricity felt right in this context. In a way it enabled Connie to live in the history that she was researching at the same time. I’m not going to lie, as a writer, I think of that house and only think of how much writing I could get done there with no modern distractions (though the lack of electricity could be deleterious for my laptop’s performance.)
I found the story to be compelling. The interludes were by far my favorite part of the story. I love it when the author lets me see the historical figures they’re writing about. I want to see their world and their place in it. The interludes are without a doubt was makes this story work so well. Howe hits the perfect tones for this book. The writing never pulled me out of the story, instead sinking me further and further into it.
4 ink bottles. If you’re looking for a quick summer read and you dig witches, this is for you.