The Story of Deliverance Dane

“For a godly people, he reflected,

his neighbors surely take their interest in one another’s sins” (52).

Deliverance’s story, and I believe the Salem Witch Trials in general, as per Katherine Howe’s novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, take root in the nosey neighbour.  Everything about Deliverance’s story creates sheer discomfort and anger at the point to which paranoia will lead people.  This tale helps those of us who are weary of neighbours who want too many details about our lives feel vindicated for our slight cold shoulder and not-all-too-inviting attitude.  (Friendly chat about the weather – yes, sharing inner-most dreams – no).

Upon reading Howe’s novel, it is clear that women were put to death because of the fear of the mob.  Accusing and killing these women assauged those fears, but left a tremendous legacy.  Howe humanizes the women accused of witchcraft through Deliverance Dane.  She is no-nonsense, fearless about using her gifts, and a good, Christian woman.  Her neighbours rushed to her for help with ailments.  Those same people turned on her in an instant when it meant saving themselves.

It is when she says good-bye to her daughter, Mercy Dane, that the injustice of the accusors is accutely felt.  Howe adeptly brings to life the trials and all of the feelings of those involved in the trials.  It is an intimate look at a very dark moment in American history.  I learned so much about a fascinating subject without opening a textbook.  It was great.

Howe builds towards the climax with all sorts of stories about Deliverance’s descendants as Connie Goodwin hunts for Deliverance’s lost book of spells and potions veiled as recipes.  Each story is so intriguing that I would be perturbed whenever I had to return to Connie’s story.

It is so very difficult for us to imagine a world where witches actually exist.  We believe that they do not, they live in the same dimension as the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy.  Howe’s Postscript assures us that the fear in 1692 Salem was very real.  There are all sorts of political and economic explanations for the panic; nonetheless, to the people of that time and place, witchcraft was a fact.  Howe adds a twist:  what if they were real?

Howe adds a touch of fantasy to her plot by incorporating real witches, real witchcraft and showing that perhaps, they were far better people than those persecuting them.  Or, at the very least, they were grossly misunderstood.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Katherine Howe’s novel as a first exposure to historical fiction.  It is not a genre I am anxious to jump into again, but one that I will not avoid.  Not at all.

If you read Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, what did you think?

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: Connie’s Story

I’m having a really hard time finding a focus for the review of Katherine Howe’s novel, hence the delay with this post.  This was my first time reading historical fiction and for the most part, I enjoyed it. Howe is able to set up Connie’s story and fill in enough history to allow the reader to understand its context without sounding like a textbook or a history lecture.

I found Howe’s novel absorbing.  Connie Goodwin was a relatable character.  Smart, perceptive and living a quiet life.  Immediately her relationship with her mother grabs me.  Those of you who have read previous posts know of my love for mother-daughter stories.  And, though this novel is about Deliverance Dane, it is also about Connie’s relationship with herself, her mother and her ancestral history.

Connie’s story is not an uncommon one in women’s literature: a young woman who finds herself while uncovering the mysteries of an old house and, in turn,  discovers her family’s history.  She also falls in love in the process with a man who just happens to share her interest in seventeenth century American history and architecture.

Howe’s plot is not the most perfectly veiled – but, it is interesting.  At least for someone like me – someone who knows very little about the Salem Witch Trials.  Connie is like a private tutor in all things American Puritan culture and the witch craze.  And, we get to see her understand the relationship with her mother, fall in love, save the man she loves and make a whopper of a discovery about herself.

There were many moments when I felt stagnant.  I would read and read and not much was developed in the way of character or plot – but perhaps that is a virtue of historical fiction since so many historical facts and details need to be included in order to validate the plot.  Lots of background without much movement forward is what I felt.  I didn’t mind so much since I find that moment in American history intriguing.  Howe’s writing is beautiful – but there were times where I felt it was trying too hard and was a bit too long.

All in all, Connie Goodwin was a solid though predictable protagonist, but it was Deliverance Dane’s story that really intrigued me.  More on that next week.

Have you finished Howe’s novel?  What are your thoughts on it?

Book Club: Discussing The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane


Thank you so much for supporting my venture into the blogging world in 2011 and I look forward to more reading, more writing and more blogging in 2012.  I wish all of you and your families a prosperous, happy and book-filled 2012!

On to our book club: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.

I finished Howe’s novel about three weeks ago and I enjoyed it, for the most part.  I am looking forward to discussing it this January – which is upon us!

If you are not finished the novel, there is still time for you to read it.  I will post a discussion of Connie Goodwin’s story (all events that occur in the present time) on January 11, 2012 and a discussion on Deliverance Dane’s story (all events that occur in the past) on January 18, 2012.

Hope you are enjoying Howe’s narrative!