Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Column No. 3

       A light read for the Halloween Season

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love to dive into my storage boxes and pull out my comfy sweaters, wool socks and fuzzy slippers. It is the time of year that I get out the knitting projects that I did not finish last winter. I bake cookies, cakes and pies. I love the smell in the air of apples and wood smoke. One of my favorite things about fall is the array of book choices!
            I love to read books that are about Salem, Massachusetts. They usually revolve around witches and the history of witches. This week’s book is perfect for this time of year. October is for Halloween and Halloween means witches!
            The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is the kind of book that lets me delve into the world of the supernatural and learn some history as well. The author, Katherine Howe, is an actual descendent of two women who were connected to the Salem witch trials of 1692—Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the witch hunts, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not.            
            Taking a page from the author’s own life, the main character of her book also has roots in that intriguing period of Salem’s history. Connie Goodwin is working hard on finishing her PhD, mastering the scholarship around the Salem witch trials. When she is preparing her deceased grandmother’s home for sale, Connie finds bottles filled with some interesting liquids and powders, a cat who has been in residence for years and a slip of paper with the words “Deliverance Dane” tucked inside a 300-year-old family Bible. Her curiosity piqued, Connie cannot stop until she uncovers the significance of these words.
            When Connie discovers that Deliverance Dane is a woman—an ancestor—she has to unearth the story behind the name, which leads her to a “physick” book of spells and recipes for healing potions. With the help of a new friend, Sam, Connie not only finds the story of Deliverance Dane, but she finds out about part of her heritage that she never knew existed.
            The book alternates between Connie’s modern-day story and the historically based narrative of Deliverance Dane. The historical fiction interspersed throughout the main storyline gives the reader an idea of what things were like for the women accused of witchcraft in the latter part of the seventeenth century.
            With the plot twists, the little mysteries and the wonderful historical background that tells us about what may have really happened during the witch hunt of 1692, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a book that kept me hooked from the very beginning. It is a light read that does not take a lot of energy to get through. Although the writing is sometimes a little flat, the engaging plot makes up for the lack of eloquence.
            It is the first novel by Howe, and while I would not suggest the book for a book group to discuss, it is definitely a fun read for this time of year.
            I also want to mention a really cool website that I found this week while I was looking for some books. Readinggroupchoices.com is a great site dedicated to making the most of your book club. You can register your book club and receive monthly newsletters about new books that would be a good fit for your group. They also have archives of their old newsletters from the past three years. The newsletters not only have great book choices, but also articles about new authors, different types of book clubs, (have you ever skyped a book club?) and a spotlight on a book club of the month. This is a great source for book clubs and single bookies alike!
            Don’t forget to find me on Goodreads.com to see what I am reading now!

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