A bewitching novel of a New England history professor who must race against time to free her family from a curse, by Katherine Howe, New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.
Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial Americaespecially women’s home recipes and medicinesand by exposing society's threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.
When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.
Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decadesand the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.
|Publisher:||Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Place of Birth:Houston, TX
Education:B.A., Columbia University, 1999; M.A., Boston University, 2006
Read an Excerpt
Cambridge, Massachusetts Early February 2000
"It would appear that we are nearly out of time," Janine Silva said, eying her vintage Spiro Agnew wristwatch, and Connie Goodwin's vision blurred with a surreal sense of déjà vu.
For six years, every major event of her graduate student life had taken place in this room. The new student welcome reception was held here — Connie had worn flip-flops, of course, which was appalling, but true. Her reading seminars were taught here. Her oral exams — the longest four hours of her life, so stressful that she had basically blocked them out the moment they were over. That was here too. Her practice job talk, before a panel of fellow doctoral candidates each wanting to ask a question more probing and picayune than the next, also here. And the dreadful, stultifying holiday parties, year after year, which she'd attended mainly so that she and her roommate Liz Dowers — Liz of the half-dimple smile and ability to actually lecture in medieval Latin — could make off with the cheese platter at the end. Years and years she had spent trapped in this room, like Theseus in the Labyrinth, an endless vista of sameness around this one conference table. And then, all at once, never again. Not since her final defense. In, what? 1995. Five years. A long time. And not a long time at all.
The room itself was essentially the same as she remembered. Pitted conference table, with a few fresh pairs of initials here and there, tattooed into the wood with ballpoint pen. The same stained blackboard, now hidden behind a freestanding whiteboard with an announcement for an undergrad study break next week — free pizza! — in blue dryerase marker. The same white-whiskered portrait of an anonymous old man, gazing boringly out at his own receding importance. The same grimy window, with the same shutters, now pinned open to catch what remained of the thin winter light. Four in the afternoon, and already almost dark. February was the cruelest month in New England.
Janine Silva, chair of the newly renamed Committee on Degrees in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, folded her hands in front of her and smiled at the faces assembled around the table.
"I believe we have time for one more question," Professor Silva said. "Who would like to do the honors?"
Janine looked expectantly into each face in turn. To Janine's left, Marcus Hayden, specialist in African American history, newly lured from Dartmouth with tenure and, it was rumored, a house in Belmont for him and his wife and four (four!) children. Marcus was a superstar. He'd gotten the Bancroft history prize with his first book (first!), and he appeared regularly as a commentator on cable news networks. He was the kind of guy Connie found herself thinking about in parenthetical interjections (a Bancroft!). If he had any shortcoming at all, it was that Marcus knew he was a superstar. He'd barely acknowledged Connie when she came into the room. He was cordial to Janine, but in an aloof, superstarish way. He had no notes in front of him, and was also looking at his watch — an expensive one. Well-cut sport coat and no tie. Too handsome for a tie. He had already moved on from this otherwise unmemorable afternoon. No way would the last question come from him.
To Janine's right, Professor Harold Beaumont leaned back in his library chair, eyelids heavy, fingers knitted over his sweatered belly. Professor Beaumont had published a thousand-page Civil War monograph twenty-one years ago, with a university press that listed it for sale in hardcover at a cost of eighty-nine dollars (all but guaranteeing it would never be adopted for any course), and then he'd settled into tenure with comfortable indifference. Connie doubted he remembered having been on her own orals committee. Or if he did, he didn't much care. He passed his days teaching one seminar a year, generally consisting of no more than four students at a time (they all had to buy his book), writing a regular column for the National Review, and going on cable news shows, though not the same channels as Professor Hayden. He had notes between his hands, the selfsame typewritten ones that he took to every examination like this one, but Connie was reasonably certain that he was about to fall asleep.
On the opposite side of the table, eyes wide, buttoned into an ill-fitting navy blue blazer that had the look of being borrowed from a friend, radiating the vibrating crackles of panic that perhaps Connie alone around the table could remember having felt, sat the reason for this gathering — a young, curly-headed graduate student named Esperanza Molina. Zazi, to her friends. Enduring the longest four hours of her entire life up to this point. Five pounds skinnier from months of studying. Light-headed, desperate for escape. Hands tightly folded, thumbs crossed as if in prayer. Her eyes met Connie's and begged, Please let this be over.
"I'll do it," Connie said.
Janine beamed. "Professor Goodwin? By all means. Go ahead."
"Miss Molina." Connie leaned her elbows on the table and looked pointedly at the young woman — girl, really. Grad students looked younger to Connie every year. "Would you kindly provide the committee with a concise but complete history of witchcraft in North America?"
The second hand ticked on Connie's watch. And kept ticking. It ticked long enough that Connie noticed it ticking. Her question was meant to be a lob. An easy tossup that Zazi could smash into the corner of the court — Connie had never actually played tennis, but same difference — and go out of her oral qualifying exam with a bang. This was a gimme question. Zazi's eyes were open so wide that Connie could almost see the whites around her irises. What was happening in there? Was Zazi hunting through all her mental index cards — she probably didn't use index cards, none of the grad students did anymore — shuffling through drawer after drawer, looking for the answer and finding them empty? What would Connie do if Zazi couldn't answer? She would have to throw her a life preserver. Give her a hint or something.
Connie glanced at the other professors around the table, weighing how a life-preserver hint would go down, and what it might mean for Zazi passing the exam. Janine would probably let it slide. Maybe. Depending on how she felt about Zazi's writing. Harold? Oh, he wouldn't care, would he? Unless he felt like causing a problem just because he could. Connie wouldn't put it past him. Plenty of professors — more than she'd like to acknowledge — took more pleasure from exercising their power over their students than they did in seeing their students succeed. She glared at him as she thought this, but he didn't notice. And what about Marcus? His lips pressed together, flattening his mouth. Dammit. No way would he give Zazi a pass. No freaking way.
Zazi straightened in her chair, drawing her shoulders back and lifting her chin. She looked from one professor's face to another, settling at last on Connie.
"Northeast, South, or Southwest?" Zazi said.
* * *
The Harvard graduate student of American history, as Zazi was, and as Connie had been, must demonstrate mastery of a dizzying array of facts, details, arguments, and agencies of staggering obscurity before being advanced to candidacy for the doctorate. This demonstration took place before a panel of professors, each chosen by the graduate student to form a committee carefully balanced between the competing interests of mentorship, influence, power, and ego. From Connie's perspective, Zazi had chosen well. Two senior people, of differing politics and spheres of influence. A young superstar. And a young not-exactly superstar. Also of differing politics. And certainly different spheres of influence. Connie had never been invited on any cable news programs. Not a lot of call for commentary on early American colonial religious history on cable news. Thank God.
The questions Zazi had gotten that afternoon had been par for the course, and as wretched as any oral exam Connie had ever presided over. Discuss, if Zazi would, the major themes and publication details of some of the most widely disseminated escaped-slave narratives circulated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In what ways, would Zazi say, did the Antinomian Crisis find expression in the political and religious organization of the European colonies? Would Zazi please describe the first Wedgwood ceramic pattern put into mass production, and its importance in the history of American class signification and practices of consumption?
Awful. Just awful. Though Connie thought she was doing okay so far. Maybe not awesome, but totally fine. Connie glanced at Marcus again under her eyelashes.
Maybe not fine. Hmmm.
Zazi needed Connie, and not just for the lob. Zazi had come to Harvard straight out of the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas, and she intended to study American colonial history. She also had a secondary interest in syncretic and folk religions of the South and Southwest, specifically Hoodoo, Vodun, and Santería. Connie was doing her best to steer Zazi away from a dissertation on that, though. Hard to get a job with that topic. No university teaching positions listed "occult expertise a plus" after "Ph.D. required."
As Connie knew well.
Zazi had arrived in Cambridge owning zero sweaters, breezed through her coursework, had frozen her first winter, bought two sweaters, and had been all set to sit for her oral exams on time when her plans had collapsed into wreckage around her. Steven Hapsburg, assistant professor of early colonial American history and Zazi's advisor, had been denied tenure and would be leaving Harvard at the end of the semester. Rumor had it he was leaving academia altogether and moving to Puerto Rico to live on a boat. (Smart move.)
Hapsburg had come to Harvard in 1994, replacing Connie's own advisor, Manning Chilton, when Chilton suffered an abrupt, appalling, career-ending distemper. Hapsburg was young, and earnest, and straight out of the University of Delaware with a studious dissertation on Connecticut shield-back chairs. He loaded up with courses and advisees and tutorials and got involved in residential life and published three articles (one in American Quarterly, even. American Quarterly!), got his book under contract with a decent university press, and then — kablooey.
Hapsburg's ignominious departure should have come as a surprise to exactly nobody. Harvard's history department hadn't tenured a junior faculty member since the 1950s. They preferred to hire superstars from peer institutions, to be guaranteed they were getting the best. (Marcus Hayden, Exhibit A.) But no one had bothered to tell Zazi that.
One night the previous November Connie had been sitting her in office at Northeastern, a pile of one hundred and fifty blue-book midterm exams on her desk, already two weeks past when she'd promised her United States Survey 1580–1860 undergrads she'd have the exams back, starting her fourth mug of coffee for the day and drumming on her head with a pencil, when her office phone rang.
It was Janine Silva.
"She's very upset," Janine said, in a mild tone that reminded Connie that Janine had stepped in when she, Connie, lost her own advisor to a devastating illness just as she was beginning dissertation research. In the background, a nose blew, and weeping continued audibly.
"He can't stay on to see her through the exam?" Connie said. Outside a breeze kicked up, rattling dry maple leaves against her office window like loosened teeth.
"He's moving onto a boat."
"There's no one else on faculty who can do it? What about someone in religious studies?" Connie's hand found her forehead and pinched an eyebrow.
"I'm not asking you to be her advisor," Janine pointed out. The radiator under Connie's office window rumbled to life. Like I did for you, Janine didn't say. "Third reader. Second, at most."
"Isn't Thomas a lecturer now? Can't he do it?"
Thomas Rutherford had been Connie's undergrad thesis student when Connie was in grad school. He was now a lanky postdoc, half a foot taller (who knew boys still grew in college?), and as pale and studious as ever. Connie still met him for lunch, on occasion.
"You know that won't do her any good when she goes on the job market," Janine said. "She'll need a professor. For her letters."
"But —" Connie picked up the pencil from her desk and pressed her thumbnail into it, digging a crescent into the wood.
What she couldn't say to Janine was that this was the year Connie was up for tenure herself. She had grad students of her own. She had nearly twice as much committee work as her colleague who came in the same year (a guy, of course). She had a book to finish. And, in theory, she had a life (ha ha). She couldn't take on some wayward grad student at another institution. It wouldn't help her tenure case at all. It would just eat up her time.
On the other end of the line, in the background, the nose blew louder, and Janine said "Here, dear," with her hand over the receiver. Probably passing over the box of tissues. One of the first lessons of being junior faculty: keep a big box of tissues. They'll be needed for the coming wave of dead grandmothers, career-ending B pluses, and dead-to-rights plagiarists feeling abrupt remorse.
Connie rested her forehead on her desk, staring into her plaid-skirted lap. There was a tiny moth hole over her knee.
"Okay," she said.
"Wonderful," Janine said. "I'll let her know. And that you'll be her respondent at the graduate student history conference in the spring."
Connie replaced the telephone receiver without lifting her head.
"I want to go live on a boat," she said to her empty office.
* * *
"... was one of the reasons Catholicism was so adept at absorbing the rituals and folk practices of so many cultures," Zazi was saying.
Connie pinched herself on her arm to force herself to pay attention. It had been a long day. A long week, if she was honest. What was this, Friday? Friday already. At least she could take the whole weekend to write. Unless they had plans. Did they have plans?
"Can you give a concrete example to support your argument, Miss Molina, rather than sweeping generalizations?" Marcus sounded unimpressed.
Zazi's smile wavered. She looked at Connie. Her dark eyes were worried. Connie gave her a subtle head nod. Zazi folded her thumbs in the opposite way.
"Well," she said. "In Louisiana voodoo, for example, oftentimes the figures of worship or spiritual significance were mapped onto Catholic saints. Instead of seeing them in opposition to each other, as might be expected, practitioners held the saints to be embodiments of the same spiritual properties and ideas. The figure of Papa Legba, for instance, is a voodoo loa — a saint, basically — who stands at the crossroads. He intercedes on behalf of humanity, so he is prayed to, but he is also served. We can see how that role, the role of intercession, maps onto the figure of Saint Peter, one of the Apostles. Peter was the rock on which Christ said he would build his church. Peter stands at the crossroads between the divine — Jesus — and man. It's basically like all the same thing."
"And what does that tell us about witchcraft?" Connie prodded, in part so that Marcus wouldn't have time to press Zazi any further. Superstars can be impatient with garden-variety brilliant people.
"Well," Zazi said, "I guess I see witchcraft as kind of a catch-all term. That encompasses many different forms of folk spiritual practice. It's a way for people — often women and people of color — to claim power for themselves."
A mildly wicked thought entered Connie's head. Zazi's was a good answer. Connie was satisfied. Zazi was definitely going to pass. In a few moments she would be welcomed as a colleague, rather than an apprentice, and her work would begin in earnest. Connie knew it, the other professors around the table knew it, and she suspected Zazi knew it too. She knew Zazi well enough to tease her. Just a little.
"One last question," Connie said, walking her pen over her knuckles and smiling prettily at the grad student on the other side of the conference table. Zazi smiled back, but carefully. Connie could tell she was trying to keep it together. Only a few minutes more.
"Yes, Professor Goodwin?" Zazi asked. Polite. Happy. Almost over.
"Think any witches were real?" Connie asked, waiting for the thud of silence that had fallen when Manning Chilton asked her that exact question in this exact exam almost exactly a decade ago. Janine gasped aloud, Marcus muttered, "You've got to be kidding me," and Harold was asleep. Connie sat back, folding her arms over her chest, smiling out of one side of her mouth.
"Nope," Zazi replied without missing a beat. She was grinning.
"Well done," Connie said.
Janine was laughing behind one jeweled hand. "Okay then," she said, trying to swallow her laughter. "Marcus?" Professor Hayden nodded in the manner of a man ready to go home. "Harold?"
Professor Beaumont twitched and woke with a grunt. "Right, right, yes," he said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs"
Copyright © 2019 Katherine Howe.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I. Aetite,
Part II. Corallus,
Also by Katherine Howe,
About the Author,