My favorite books by first time authors are those that you would never know were first novels. Katherine Howe has accomplished this feat with her first novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. With the encouragement of her friend, author Matthew Pearl, Howe has imagined a glimpse into the history of American witchcraft.
Connie is a graduate student at Harvard who specializes in colonial America. When she is asked by her mother to go through her deceased grandmother's possessions and clean her house for sale, Connie is unwittingly drawn into a mystery from the past. She finds a key in an old bible and rolled inside the stem of the key is a slip of paper with the name "Deliverance Dane" on it. After some research, she finds that Dane may have left behind a "physick book" or book of spells after her execution in Salem. Connie sees the book as her chance for an amazing doctoral dissertation but it turns into a quest for so much more.
In my opinion, this book was really successful because of Howe's inclusion of scenes from the past with Dane, her daughter and her granddaughter. They give the reader information that Connie would never have been able to find through her research. This allows for a sense of completeness to the story that wouldn't have been there if it was strictly written from the modern perspective.
My only problem with the story were the few times that I seemed to piece together the clues faster than Connie did -- and she was supposed to be a semi-expert in the subject! I don't know if she is supposed to have been clouded by her anxieties and stress or if I just have the advantage by being a semi-expert in mystery novels. ::wink:: Otherwise, this is a strong novel about a very interesting (though dark) period in American history.
This book will be released next week (June 9).
Looking for the magic in everyday life,
Buy The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane on Amazon or find it at your local library.