The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe , deftly weaves modern day, Harvard doctoral candidate Connie Goodwin’s life with that of Salem-era witch Deliverance Dane. Connie’s earthy, organic mother has asked her to spend the summer cleaning her Granna’s old house (to sell) during the same time Connie’s PhD advisor has recommended she find a profound, unique primary source for her dissertation. As Connie spends the summer navigating both projects, she, and fellow historian (and steeple jack) Sam, discover just how entwined they might be. While Connie cleans and tends the gardens of Granna’s house, she discovers healing herbs and mysterious potions throughout the grounds as well as an old inscription of the name “Deliverance Dane” inside the family bible.
With her curiosity piqued, she and Sam set out on a dangerous quest to find out who and what Deliverance Dane and her receipt book are and how they relate to her Granna and to Connie herself. Surprise enemies, newfound abilities, and an old family connection lend a hint of mystery and intrigue to this historical novel. Howe, a historian herself, knowledgeably writes about one of the most riveting time periods in Salem’s history (a personal favorite of mine). If you have an interest in New England history, especially the Salem witch trials, this will be a quick, captivating read over a few cold winter nights (or hot summer days or, really, any day in between). Bottom line: 3/5.
While I prefer the subject matter in this novel, I prefer the atmosphere and writing in Howe’s sophomore novel The House of Velvet and Glass, but I would definitely recommend both. While The House of Velvet and Glass featured a poppy recipe (it was a rather opium themed read), this novel features a predominance of herbs. Coincidentally, we are currently overwhelmed with our crop (?) of herbs. I have more basil, mint, etc. than I know what to do with. So in sticking with the herb theme (and to avoid having to go to the store), I am recommending Herbed Pizza with Basil, Proscuitto, and Goat Cheese.