October Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

by Kaley Ingenito

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe follows a PhD candidate, Connie, as she uncovers academic and personal histories after being tasked with cleaning out her grandmother’s old house near Salem, Massachusetts.

physickHowe clearly did her research before writing this historical fiction that, in a somewhat heavyhanded way, brings together the narrative of a girl trying to find her place in the world and some hard truths about a vicious time in colonial America.

Throw in some mysticism, academic fervor, and sinister criminal activity and we have ourselves a plot. It is interesting if nothing else. And for those looking for an understanding of the times and attitudes that lead up to the hysteria of the witch-hunts in Salem in an accessible and entertaining way, this book is a great find.

Here’s the thing- It took 170 pages for the story to really get going. Out of 360. If you ask me, it’s worth it, but if you’re the type to put down a book that doesn’t grab you out of your seat- you might not make it through to the good stuff.
There’s magic and mystery and adventure… but first, you have to sit through an oral exam for Ph D candidacy. To some people, that might make it a wash. But the book is well-written, if a bit heavy on intricate descriptions of furniture, and the characters are charming.
(Kinda) Fun fact: The author, Katherine Howe, is a descendent of Elizabeth Proctor (yup, she was a real person, Arthur Miller fans!) who survived the witch hunts, and of Elizabeth Howe, who did not.
In short, I liked the book and I think its worth reading but it’s not something I’d push on anyone. Hence, it does not make it to the book shelf.

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