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Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

January 10, 2012

by Katherine Howe

I enjoyed this book.  (As with all my reviews there are spoilers ahead.)  I will admit that when the story first starts out, it is pretty dull and slow but be patient.  There is a reason for the slowness.  Pay attention…though I admit I figured what was happening very early in the book which is always satisfying intellectually yet disappointing entertainment-wise.  Despite that I found the book a very good read.

The tale starts out with a Harvard student attending her orals before being accepted into the doctorate program.  In the midst of trying to discover the topic of her thesis, her new-agey mother talks her into handling the sale of her grandmother’s abandoned home in a town near Salem.  In perusing the antiquated house, the frustrated student stumbles across the name of Deliverance Dane which sends her all over the area trying to determine who this woman was.  In the process of searching, she finds romance, the topic for her dissertation and learns about herself and her family.

This is a tale about a cunning woman getting swept up in the religious fears and superstitions of the Salem witch trials…one who was a witch but not the source of bewitchment bedeviling girls.  It is about a recipe book, an almanac, a book of shadows and the hands it passed through.  It is about a man whose ego and hunger for prestige causes him to become twisted and debased.  It is about a woman finding out that maybe, just maybe her mother is not as ditsy as she thought.

The idea that bewitchment may refer not to the use of magick against another but the use of inorganic substances is an intriguing one.

Overall, I recommend this book especially if you ever found the Salem witch trials sad and interesting all at the same time.

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