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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Saturday, April 18, 2009

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

Title: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Genre: Historical Fiction / Thriller
Finished: April 18, 2009

Connie Goodwin is a Harvard Graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation. Her advisor, Manning Chilton, suggests that she find a unique and undiscovered primary source to focus her research on. Unfortunately for Connie and her academic progress, not a lot of work is getting done on the dissertation, not since Connie's earthly and eccentric mother Grace called to ask her to go up to Marblehead, Massachusetts and help get her grandmother's house ready for selling. While going through her Grandmother's house, Connie chances along an old bible and a key that contains a scroll with the name Deliverance Dane. Her curiosity is peaked. Uncovering the past through scattered documents and records, Connie soon enough learns that Deliverance Dane was accused and killed as a witch during the famous Salem Witch Trials, leaving behind a book of receipts, or what we would refer to as recipes. Connie passionately searches this book out, tracing the lives of mother to daughter until she comes to see her own family connection in this all. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane weaves reality, history, and magic together as logical and realistic Connie faces the possibility that there may be something more to this world than can be explained by reason alone, especially when her own safety begins to be threatened by something faceless and nameless.

This is a page turner. I just couldn't put this book down and loved the flashbacks to Deliverance's time the most. The late 1600s were hard for women, especially Puritan women who had to be steely and reserved at all times. I came to respect Deliverance for her steadfast nature and her want to help those very people who condemned her. It is certainly hard to be strong when faced with conflict, especially that of the life threatening brand. The mother-daughter dynamic is important in the book, and each mother and daughter carries on their family legacy of spells and healing while adapting to the times. Just as mothers and daughters tend to be, each daughter is both like and unlike her mother. Sometimes it seems as though Howe, a historian herself, uses the plot and Connie as an excuse to let us know just how much she personally knows about history. While this isn't a bad thing, quite the opposite in the opinion of this historian, it does make the dialogue sound forced at times. There was one thing I did take issue with, but not enough to put me off of the book. I was sort of disappointed that this book turned from historical fiction / thriller to thriller / fantasy. I would have liked it better had the author not chosen to make the "magic" aspect of what Deliverance and her kin did actual reality. When the characters began to do real magic, I gave a sigh. Part of the appeal of the book was that it spoke to me as an historian and a realist. What I wanted to see and get from the book was the story of a woman, a natural woman capable of using the earth as anyone could, being marked as evil for her skill with healing. That hope was cut short when the characters began actually speaking spells and shooting light from the tips of their fingers. To be honest, I could see the ending coming a mile away. It was quite obvious from the get-go who the bad guy is. I was surprised that it took super-intelligent Connie so long to figure it out for herself. Then again, maybe I just have a distrustful nature. My suspicion as to the end of the book didn't ruin the plot for me, though, and I absolutely devoured the book.

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