When we talk about the Salem witch trials, we usually end up talking about the contagious nature of hysteria, or about how the repressed sometimes act out in an attempt to gain power. But what, as one of the characters in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane asks, if the Salem witches really were witches? What if we've got it all wrong?

Deliverance Dane tells two interweaving stories. One of the stories is Connie Goodwin's. Connie is a graduate student, working on her PhD at Harvard. Her area of expertise is the Salem witch trials of 1692. The other story takes place amongst the people of Salem in the late seventeenth century, and follows the struggles of a woman who may in fact be a bona fide Salem witch.

As the book moves on - as Connie's life is increasingly complicated by her seemingly nutty mother, by her deceased grandmother's clutter, by her suspiciously aggressive professor, and by a man who steals her heart - we realize that these two storylines are twisting closer and closer to one another, and that sooner or later, they are going to intersect.

It's difficult to say what genre this book falls under. It's definitely historical fiction, but it's also a little bit fantasy and a little bit mystery/thriller. If you like your history spiced up with a liberal dash of magic, look no further. It's spooky, page-turning, sometimes confusing fun - and although Howe doesn't intend for this book to be historically accurate, so to speak, you'll never really look at the Puritans in quite the same way.

This book, named one of the top ten books of 2009, is not written specifically for young adults but would be a fascinating detour into an alternative look at early American history. If you like The Crucible, or are interested in how people lived in the pre-USA "New World" - and if you're not scared of a little bit of "what in the heck is going on here?" - then this might be a great book for you. Qualifies for AERP and available from my classroom library!

Neat sidenote: the author is a descendent of Elizabeth Proctor (yep, that Elizabeth Proctor) and Elizabeth Howe, the latter of whom was executed for witchcraft in Salem!



06/30/2014 06:58

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