Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Copyright 2009
Fiction/Historical with paranormal and romantic elements
371 pages

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.

4.5/5 - Highly recommended. A unique twist on a horrifying yet fascinating part of American history, rendered with immense care in its historical detail and brim full of exciting plot points. History, magic, romance -- a phenomenal blend that made the book nearly impossible to put down. Unlike many books that lose their magic around halfway through, Physick becomes more intriguing the farther you get into it.

I only took off a half-point for that opening bit about Connie's defense, which might truly have just been a personal thing. To be honest, I always wanted to get a doctorate and do research, so I'm rather envious of my husband's higher education.

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)!!


  1. I'm so glad you liked it after all!

  2. Kathy,

    I'm so glad I picked the book up a second time! I'd hate to have missed out, now that I know what a fun read Physick is!

  3. Great review. I really want to read this one!

  4. I just finished this book last night, and I agree with you!

    Have a happy July 4!

  5. I have a couple of Salem witches on my family tree (none really witches, just persecuted for it!), so I always try to read books on the subject! I'll have to pick this one up--thanks for the review :)

  6. I decided I wouldn't care for this book when I saw that it contained paranormal elements, but after reading your review I decided I was very much interested.

  7. Holly,

    Thank you and I hope you do. I should probably have added that the romance is never R-rated, which I very much appreciated and I know you do, as well.


    I'm glad you enjoyed it, too! I thought Physick was a rollicking fun read.

    Happy 4th!

    Gentle Reader,

    How fascinating to have that connection! Physick is unique. I loved that she took such a dramatically different tack, imagining the possibility of real magic. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!


    The paranormal elements are slow in building and really add dimension to the whole idea behind the Salem concept -- especially when Connie has to use them to save someone she loves. I think you'll like it. Let me know, would ya? :)

  8. I have this one on my to-read list - I can't wait to find time for it!

  9. Happy fourth to you too Nancy! Hope you have a nice day and enjoy your AC :) I actually have a copy of this book here that was sent to me for review and I haven't reviewed it yet :/ But it sounds really good! Maybe I'll actually read it now :p

  10. Awww....I love Meercats!! Every since Meercat Manor. Cute little guys!!

    I'm glad you liked this book. I have it on my shelf!

  11. I am glad you ended up liking this one, Nancy. It's one that's been on my wish list since I first heard about it. I can't wait to read it.

  12. Carrie,

    I hope you find time to read it, soon. Physick is a very fun read!


    I think you'll love this book. I have no idea why I think that, but I just do. :)

    Believe me, I'm enjoying the air conditioner!!! We're trying to find out if fireworks have been banned because of our drought. We haven't heard a single bang noise and usually the teenagers are playing, by now.


    I've always loved the meerkats. We saw just a tiny bit of Meerkat Manor on a sample disk I got from a mail advertisement and loved it, but we had no satellite service, by then. Darn. They're adorable to watch. :)


    I think you'll enjoy Physick. It's got such a nice blend of mystery, romance and magic -- just a rocking fine story, IMHO.

  13. This one sounds so good! I am on a waiting list at the library and it will be worth the wait. :)

  14. Happy 4th!

    The Physick book does look good. Go get your degree. I think you should go away to college. Live in a dorm. An apt nearby? :)

  15. Krista,

    It's worth the wait; you'll love it. :)


    Oh, okay. Hmm. What do you think I should study? Tax accounting is out. I just don't get that stuff. ;)

  16. Great review! This one is waiting in my ARC stack. I also have a fascination with the witch trials.

  17. Teddy Rose,

    Thank you! Yep, I find the witch trials fascinating, too. I think the whole Salem event is a bit of a mystery, to this day, so it's fun reading new fiction, new theories about what really happened -- anything, really. I hope you enjoy Physick as much as I did!

  18. This sounds interesting. It is not one I would have picked up on my own but after reading your review... I may keep an eye open for it.

  19. this one sounds really interesting!

    (now I know why you are in Mississippi!)

  20. Sheila,

    I think I might have overlooked the book if not for the fact that I read about it and found that the Salem witch trials entered into the storyline. The cover is great, but easy to walk past because browns aren't particulary eye-catching. I hope you do read it and let me know what you think!

  21. Jessica,

    It's really fun reading.

    You do? You'd better explain it to me, then, because I still don't get why I'm here! ;)

  22. Glad this turned out to be a winner for you. My sister-in-law just finished it and was starting to tell me her thoughts about it, but I got distracted with dinner prep for my niece's birthday and didn't catch what she was saying. For some reason, this book just doesn't appeal to me at all. And I couldn't give you one good reason why! :)

  23. Les,

    I'm not so sure it's your thing, to be honest. You seem to lean heavily toward women's fiction, suspense and memoirs. Maybe someday you'll decide it interests you, but don't let the crowd nudge you to read something you don't want to. I've resisted at least three that *everyone* seemed to love: The Memory-Keeper's Daughter, The Kite Runner and Water for Elephants. I could probably think of more -- point being that what's "in" or "new" isn't necessarily what's right for everyone.

  24. One of the Nurse Practicner (sp?) I work with read Water for Elephants and wanted me to read it. It did not sound like my kind of book so I have not tackled it yet. I want too just so I can talk to her about it. :)

  25. Brittanie,

    I actually ended up with a copy of Water for Elephants, even though I had no interest in reading it. I'll look to see if I've still got it, but I think it's been donated -- it was my mother's copy. She didn't like it and I saw that as confirmation that didn't need to read it, but I still managed to drag it home from Oklahoma. If you're intrigued and want to discuss a book with someone, I think that's a pretty good reason to give it a go.

  26. I was really lucky to meet this author at Book Expo America and have her sign a copy of her book and now I can't wait to actually read it!!

  27. Great review! This is sitting on my shelf and I'm anxious to find the time to read it. I'm glad you liked it.

  28. Stephanie,

    How cool! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


    I'm getting the impression that Physick is on everybody's shelf, already. LOL It's great. I'm hanging onto my copy to reread, which I seldom do, anymore. I liked it that much.

  29. Tammy was kind enough to send this to me. It looks great.

  30. Sharon,

    I'm glad Tammy sent it to you, because I can't part with my copy. I'm going to try to talk kiddo into reading it. I think he'd enjoy it. Plus, you know how hard it is to keep him in books. You will *love* it.

  31. English literature in the modern day. Digital media. Something interesting. Tax accounting is out? But it's so fun! I would love to go back to school. There's about a million things I'd like to study more that completely uninterested me back in the day.

  32. Carrie,

    Tax accounting is the only course I ever dropped because I didn't understand what was being taught. It would help if I was near a university. I'd play for a while and see what clicks. I had two favorite subject areas, but I'm not sure either interest me, anymore. At least, not to the extreme that I'd want to get a doctorate and do research & consulting, now that I'm older.

  33. Anonymous9:56 PM

    It was a great read, wasn't it? I especially enjoyed the ending which I didn't expect at all.

  34. Bellezza,

    The ending was a total surprise. Yep, I thought it was an amazing read!


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