The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I had a friend recommend this book to me a while ago as something she really enjoyed. I was aware of the book from a Between the Bookends post on GeekDad, but a friend recommendation always helps. I decided to read it now because I needed something lighter after the giant tome that was Fall of Giants, and something my library had on the shelf so I could start it now. Deliverance Dane fit the bill.

Published: 2009

Genre: a dash of historical fiction, a dash of magical fiction

Length: 371 pages

Setting: Massachusetts, 1991 and several historical times, starting in 1681

Summary: Connie is a graduate student in colonial history. She passes her orals and now needs a thesis topic. At the same time, her mother asks her to clean out her Grandmother’s old house and get it prepped for sale. While doing some cleaning, Connie finds evidence of a recipe book of an accused witch in Salem. A new primary source from an unknown Salem witch would be a perfect thesis topic, and her advisory is very keen that she find the book. She researches Dane’s estate to track down the book, with the help of an attractive steeplejack, Sam, working in the area. Her advisor decides to further encourage her research efforts (and his research into creating the Philosopher’s Stone) by poisoning Sam, and Connie discovers she (and the other women in her family) can do actual magic.

Final thoughts: I enjoyed the book on several levels. For one thing, there was the whole aspect of being in grad school and trying extra hard to fit in because you’re a girl, but still always feeling on the edge of failure. I don’t know that I’ve seen many books set in that stage of your educational journey, and it brings back fond memories of my graduate school days. My graduate school experience was slightly better than Connie’s, without the fear of not belonging. Sadly, the guys who need to read this book to see how women often feel while working toward a post-graduate degree probably won’t read the book because the book is targeted more at women.

The next level of the book I enjoyed was the romance between Connie and Sam. This isn’t a romance book, so there aren’t any adult scenes. Just lots of warm fuzzies that had me rooting for the relationship from the time they met.

Then, there’s the historical aspects of the story. We follow the book and the family through several generations as the culture of the area changed. The religion of the time was so narrow and had such a strict interpretation of God’s word. A strong woman was almost by definition suspect.

Finally, we get to the magical part of the story. At first, like Connie, you wonder if it’s real. Then, I started to see patterns in the family (like the family make-up of a mother, a single daughter, and an accident that got the father out of the picture). Even the dog was suspect (rightly, as it turned out, although I don’t think I needed the tag end of his story). I’m not sure I wanted the magic to be real. I can’t decide if it made it a better or worse story for the women actually practicing magic. I did like how Connie reevaluated her mother once she realized what she could do. I think it would make a good book club book because there’s so many levels to discuss within the book.

Title comes from: This was the book that Connie was looking for through most of the story

Reading challenges fulfilled: #80 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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