The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

(Hyperion, $25.99, 362 pages, ISBN 978-1-4013-4090-2)

In commemoration of old-fashioned cursive writing, this week’s Mysterious Book Report No. 15 will be about an old-fashioned witch hunt.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is about the search for a hand-written book of herbs, remedies and cures compiled during the colonial period by a healer named Deliverance Dane, who was later caught up in the Salem Witch trials.

We’ve all heard of Salem Massachusetts and its infamous witch trials.  But how much do you really know?  If you’re like me, the answer’s a simple “not much.”  The PhysickBook of Deliverance Dane can change that.  It will enlighten, entertain and educate you about this tragic, neglected, and shameful element of American Colonial history.

The book has been lost, if it ever existed at all, sometime between 1692, when the trials began, and the present day.  The searcher is a young woman named Connie Goodwin, who’s completing her PhD thesis and oral examination under the direction of Professor Manning Chilton, a stern and demanding taskmaster.  Add in a supernatural element, and the mystery gets more focused, intense and dangerous with each chapter as they unfold in alternating fashion between Deliverance Dane’s story in 1692 and Connie Goodwin’s in the present day.

I found it to be an excellent read, written by a young woman who’s an actual descendant of two of the women accused and tried in 1692.  Because this novel is plot-driven more than action oriented, it will appeal to women, from teens on up and is a good one for book clubs as well as ladies with medical backgrounds . . . like Sharon Corey or Ruth Curley.


John Dwaine McKenna