Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Connie Goodwin spent years reading and studying the history of colonial America. When she became a candidate for the doctoral program at Harvard she needed to find a primary source for her dissertation. About that time her mother asked her to clean out Granna's house in Marblehead, Massachusetts, to sell for back taxes. Connie was amazed to find that it was built years ago and had never been electrified. She also discovered many bottles and pots with dead plants and vines in the house and some unusual plants and vines in the garden. Her search through books in the house revealed the name of Deliverance Dane. Further research suggested that Deliverance Dane lived during the 1600s in Salem. Was she a witch? This story alternates chapters set in 1691 in Marblehead and Salem, Mass., and 1991 in Cambridge and Marblehead, Mass. If Connie could find Deliverance Dane's physick book she would have an amazing source for her research and her reputation. What are the chances of such a book surviving to 1991? Connie's advisor was also interested in the book. Somehow he seemed too interested. Katherine Howe is a real historian and did much research before writing the historical fiction. The reality behind the story was her family connection to the Salem witch trials. Before reading this book I had not thought much about the Salem witch trials or the people accused of being witches. Were the tests done on and to the accused valid or were they prompted by superstition or differing religious beliefs? Were people who came to America for religious freedom requiring everyone to believe the same and act the same or else face punishment? Were the people accused of witchcraft really using home remedies to treat physical ailments? Read the story and then the author's comments at the end of the book. Form your own opinion as to what really happened.

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