Book: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Challenge Prompt: Read a book about a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe (a fitting coincidence, then, that I'm posting this on Halloween)
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe's debut novel, tells the story of Connie Goodwin, a PhD student in history at Harvard. After passing her orals, she plans to spend the summer researching and writing her dissertation. But inspiration is hard to find.
When her eccentric hippie mother calls and asks her to spend the summer packing up her grandmother's abandoned house in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Connie finds inspiration is closer than she thinks. On her first day in the rickety old house without electricity or a phone and which is overgrown with all manner of plants, Connie discovers an old key with the name "Deliverance Dane" written on an attached key. The search for Deliverance Dane's story leads Connie deeper and deeper into the world of the Salem Witch Trials and the occult.
I have always found it particularly interesting to read people's theories about why the Salem Witch Trials happened. From fungus to actual witchcraft, many theories have been put forth. Howe (who, by the way is related to two accused Salem witches, Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor) bridges the gap with Deliverance's physick book. Not quite a spell book, not quite a medicine book, Deliverance's physick book blurs the line between concrete reality and abstract possibility.
Effortlessly switching back and forth between 1991 (Connie's story) and 1692 (Deliverance's story), Howe weaves together a compelling and chilling story, as both Connie and Deliverance find themselves in more and more danger. I found myself wanting to keep reading even late into the night on a weekday when I had to get up at 5:30 the next morning.
Howe incorporates real people like Deliverance Dane, the five or six "afflicted" girls of Salem, and accused "witches" like Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Good. She blends facts with fiction well enough and thoroughly enough that the end product is believable and enjoyable.
Final Recommendation: Read it if you're in the mood for an occult thriller. I wouldn't recommend that anyone under college-age read it, though, due to some adult content. Nothing explicit or terrible, but not something I would want kids or teenagers to read.