Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Katherine Howe)

Since historical fiction is my favorite genre, I was eager to read "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane". Taking the reader back in time to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Katherine Howe's book had a lot of promise. I sat down to begin reading it one Sunday afternoon about two weeks ago and could not put it down. It all went downhill from there.

Howe does what seems to be the trend nowadays began by the master, Jodi Picoult...interweaving two or more narratives. Howe's take on it is more ambitious...not only going back and forth between stories but also between time periods. Connie Goodwin is a Harvard grad student beginning her dissertation in 1991. Her esteemed professor suggests that she find a unique primary source that no one has ever seen before. As she is cleaning out her deceased grandmother's home, Connie finds the name, Deliverance Dane, in a Bible. She eventually comes to realize that Dane authored a physick book back in the days of Salem, so her mission becomes finding that. Howe's other story is the actual story of Dane, along with her daughter and granddaughter.

This book had so much going for it in the beginning, but just couldn't get there. I found it harder and harder to pick up, because eventually it just got too wordy. If Howe had concentrated more on Deliverance's story, it would have made for a far more interesting tale. Instead, she got hung up on Connie's story. The ending is like a Scooby Doo cartoon, when the criminal is finally revealed. Pick up "The Crucible" instead.