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"Have you not considered the distinct possibility that the accused were simply guilty of witchcraft?"
Connie Goodwin thinks her academic advisor is teasing her; she has mastered the scholarship surrounding the Salem witch trials of 1692 and knows the question he poses is preposterous. She never suspects that answering it will alter everything she knows about the past, her family, and the professor himself.
Interweaving two narratives, one set in 1991 and one set three centuries earlier, Katherine Howe's debut novel is a marvel of invention and historical reconstruction. The author employs her training as a historian to vividly depict the realities of 17th-century Salem, dramatizing the plight of the unfortunate victims as they fall prey to the mania of their accusers. But it is the leap of imagination by which she connects Connie to that distant past that turns The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane into a bewitching reading experience.
Sent by her mother to prepare her long-deceased grandmother's home for sale, Connie finds a decrepit dwelling filled with venerable oddities, including a collection of ancient bottles filled with peculiar liquids and powders. On her first night there, Connie chances on a crumbling bit of paper, bearing the words "Deliverance Dane," that has been carefully hidden inside a key tucked between the pages of a 300-year-old family Bible. Combing the local church registry for traces of this mysterious name, Connie strikes up an acquaintance with Sam, a steeplejack engaged in the church’s preservation. Together they piece together Deliverance's tragic story and learn of her precious book of spells and recipes for healing potions. When a series of sinister events threaten Sam's life, Connie's search for the book is transformed from scholarly pursuit to a matter of life and death -- and love.
With breathless suspense and emotional sympathy, Katherine Howe guides readers between past and present as she reveals the discoveries of Connie Goodwin and the secrets of Deliverance Dane, condemned as a witch in the Salem hysteria. Told with conviction and thrillingly paced, this extraordinary first novel proves Howe's command of what may be the greatest sorcery of all: that of the consummate storyteller.
From the Critics
Spellbinding, vividly detailed, witty, and astutely plotted.... A keen and magical historical mystery laced with romance and sly digs at society’s persistent underestimation of women. --Booklist (Starred Review)
From Our Booksellers
Deliverance Dane has everything: a memorable story, a fresh historical perspective, unforgettable characters, and a spark of magic! Bewitching! --Karen Schafroth, Des Peres, MO
Howe hit the perfect balance between spine-tingling thriller and thoughtful questioning of the Salem witch trials. I couldn’t, and didn’t, put it down. --Doug Britt, Chicago, IL
Read this book and feel history being rewritten. --Sandra Guerfi, White Plains, NY
I devoured this book! An academic mystery for fans of The Historian, Garden Spells, Possession, or Anne Rice’s Mayfair books. --Rosey McArdell, Apple Valley, MN