While working on her doctoral dissertation in early American history, Connie Goodwin is asked by her mother to spend the summer cleaning out her grandmother's house in Marblehead to get it ready for sale. When she finds a very old bible, a small antique key falls out. The key contains a tiny piece of paper with the words Deliverance Dane written on it. These objects give Connie a new focus for her dissertation.
While doing her research, Connie meets and forms a romantic attatchment with Sam, a young steeplejack, who also has an interest in early American history. Sam gives her some suggestions to help her research this mysterious Deliverance Dane. While looking through some old records, Connie finds reference to a Physick book or receipt book. If this book was listed in the property of Deliverance Dane, it must have had a vast importance at the time. Tracking down this book becomes tantamount to Connie's daily life. Connie's involvement with Sam was reasonably predictable but the upshots of this relationship were far from forseeable as Sam and the book are at the heart of the story.
In this spellbinding debut novel, Howe transitions smoothly from 1681 to the present time of 1991. The past, through short interludes, tells the story of Deliverance Dane who was eventually accused of witchcraft, her daughter Mercy and granddaughter Prudence. These interludes into the past give the reader a good feel for the times, beliefs and superstitions of the people. It was very easy for me to imagine the scenes. The interludes into the past were short enough to just get me hooked on what happened long ago and to want to come back to the present to see how it all tied in.
Howe has the ability to mentally transport the reader back to Salem and Marblehead and put oneself right into the scene. It was so easy to imagine the grandmother's house, the witchcraft trials and Connie's urgency in finding the Physick book while she searched through old dusty archives. This book has a little bit of suspense, witchcraft and even romance in the mix making for a very intriguing tale. I found I had as much interest in the past story as the present. Sometimes, this is not the case with two different time frames. This book had me from the very beginning and I found I couldn't put it down until the last page. It is very interesting that Ms. Howe is descended from Elizabeth Howe and Elizabeth Proctor, two of the women accused of being witches in Salem. Highly recommended. 5*****
A big thank you to Shelf Awareness and Voice Publishers for a copy of this book. Book details:
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Voice (June 9, 2009)