2 reviews in 1 post: Deliverance Dane & Temperance Hobbs

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe, is a fun book with an intriguing premise. As the book opens, Connie Goodwin is concluding her orals for her PhD candidacy. Her specialty is early American history, and she’s looking for something to set her research apart. As luck would have it, she’s asked to clean out her ancestors’ abandoned home. There, she finds clues to a previously-unknown primary source: a book of charms kept through several generations, all the way back to the 1600s. She also finds a heritage she didn’t know she had.

Interspersed with Connie’s search is the story of the book’s history and the women who created it, beginning with one accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials.

The tidbits of historical village life were fascinating, and Connie’s attraction to Sam the steeplejack was engaging. At times the writing was splendid; in other places, however, it was lackluster and elementary. There were several instances where Connie didn’t know or realize something that any Freshman history major would know, even though she’s a PhD candidate. There were also some conflicting elements in the story (e.g., in one place Connie doesn’t remember her grandmother but in another place she reminisces fondly about her). The ending was…well, readers interested in this type of book should expect to suspend belief.

If I had picked this book up as a YA, instead of a NYT-bestselling adult novel, I could give it a higher rating. But considering the inconsistent prose and the too-simple “clues” Connie can’t comprehend without a lot of explaining for the reader, as a book for adults it doesn’t hold up. Still, the interesting historical aspect makes it an entertaining read. Three stars.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe is a follow-up to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. Although Temperance can be read as a stand-alone, there are several references to happenings in Deliverance, and reading the first book will enhance understanding of the second.

As Temperance opens, Connie hasn’t entirely come to terms with her heritage as a descendent of a Salem witch. She puts up with her mother’s hippie-new age ideas with barely-disguised scorn when she has to, and otherwise tries not to think about it.

Then she gets pregnant, and plans to marry Sam. She can no longer hide from the fact that every husband-father in her ancestry dies an early death. All, that is, except one. Why didn’t the husband of Temperance Hobbs meet the same fate? If Connie can discover that secret, she can have her happily-ever-after.

The modern-day story is told alternately with that of Temperance Hobbs, who lived in the 1600s, and her daughters. As such, the reader is privy to the secret before Connie is. What the reader doesn’t know is how on earth a modern-day woman will be able to replicate the required action—if she can find it.

Like the first book, this one has an intriguing premise, and it could be called fun. But it has the same inconsistency in its delivery. I’d hoped that since this book had a different publisher, a good editor would elevate the execution. But poor writing was found along with the good. The author found it necessary to over-explain everything. Worst of all, the ending was so absurd I may not have finished the book if it wasn’t for my book group. Up to that point, the story was enjoyable if still not entirely believable. Every book doesn’t have to be fine literature, after all.

I wish I could give this book—and Deliverance—a higher rating, for several reasons. I’d like to see more books explore various interpretations of historical events. The premise and the concept are promising. It’s a fun read. And, less importantly but still admittedly part of the picture, our book group received copies of The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs from GalleyMatch. It’s the first time we’ve been so privileged, and fear that with a negative review, it may also be the last. But I have to give an honest review, and honestly, this book didn’t live up even to the low expectations set by its predecessor. Two stars.

2 responses to this post.

  1. A close, critical reading, Teresa. Thank you!


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