I love reading anything and everything about the Salem witch trials, so when I read the blurb about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and its unique central question, I knew I had to read the book. What if at least one of those accused of witchcraft during the panic in Salem really was a witch?
Connie has just finished her doctoral defense and needs to prepare to do the research for her dissertation when she is given a task by her mother. Her grandmother's centuries-old house near Salem has been empty for many years, the taxes have gone unpaid, and Connie is the only one who can take on the chore of cleaning it out to prepare it for sale. During the cleaning process, she comes across an ancient Bible with a key inside and the words "Deliverance Dane". The house itself contains many mysteries. Connie decides she must find out who Deliverance Dane was and, in the process discovers that a "physick book", a book of medicinal recipes (possibly magical) is missing.
In Connie's time, it is 1991. She slowly uncovers the mystery and hypothesizes that maybe at least one of the victims of the panic in Salem did, in fact, practice magic. However, she must locate the book in order to prove her theory. Along with her work in uncovering the mystery, she finds herself falling in love. But, sinister things begin to occur and in order to save the man she loves, Connie must solve the mystery and learn to summon the magic of her ancestors.
Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, the tale of Deliverance Dane and her descendants is told alongside Connie's modern tale, beginning with Deliverance's presence during the death of a child she treated in 1691. The historical scenes are not told in chronological order, so there's a bit of jumping around, but the author is an historian and the detail is authentic and believable, the historical order easy to follow in spite of that jumping around in time.
When I first began reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, I was particularly captured by the opening historical scene and felt a little jarred when the book shifted to a more modern time period. I wasn't sure I wanted to read about Connie's life in academia and I thought that was where it was headed. We've sort of been there, done that with my husband, who has a doctorate in geotechnical engineering; and, Connie didn't immediately appeal to me. I actually set the book aside for a week or two, but then I picked it up and flipped through -- I hadn't bothered to check for the quantity of historical scenes; I'd just made the irrational assumption that the tale was going to focus on Connie, for some reason.
I'm so glad I returned to the book because it thoroughly captured me on the second attempt. Once Connie and her perky friend head up to find her grandmother's house, the story takes an interesting turn. The house is ancient and just reading the description made me want to take a jaunt to Salem to peruse the village and view the architecture. There were strange herbs in the yard and jars in the kitchen. Connie is a little too deliberately clueless, at first, but the book becomes more and more mesmerizing, magical and romantic the farther you read. I loved the story and that blend of love and magic. Connie gradually grew on me, I adored her romantic interest, and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane turned out to be one of my favorite books of the month, if not the year.
I sent myself another zoo photo to tide me over till I can delete some files. The meerkats were thriving in the Memphis heat. Here's one in a casual pose:
Happy Independence Day to the Americans (a day early)!!