The year is 1991 and doctorate student Connie Goodwin is looking for the subject for her dissertation. Connie is a student of early American history at an Ivy League university. Her mother, a native New Englander transplanted to Arizona where she reads auras, asks her to move to her grandmother’s old house in Marblehead to ready it for sale. The house is ancient and has not been lived in for decades.
Connie finds what she hopes will be the unique new found source that she can use for her dissertation – a undocumented victim of the Salem witch trials, Deliverance Dane. So begins Connie’s search for The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (2009). Katherine Howe’s book is more than the detective work of a student running source documentation to ground. The novel travels back and forth from the 20th century to the 17th century easily, realistically depicting everyday life as well and the “physick” work of Deliverance and her descendents. There is social commentary within the story, in both centuries of women’s roles at the time, used as a method to move the story along.
The novel is well written and enjoyable. I was a little disappointed in the depiction of Connie’s final confrontation with her advisor, it was a little anticlimactic but I will stop there to avoid my comments being a spoiler. I was also a little distracted with all the running to phone booths to make telephone calls; I realize this was pretty much pre-cell phones but it was a little too irritating to only know the mother thorough the odd phone call to Arizona. The mother would have added to the story if the character would have been developed more and differently.
Overall a good book that I would recommend; I read the book, but I would think that is would be a good audio book or download as well.