Hardcover: 384 pages
A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American History - the Salem witch trials.This enchanting book is like 2 books in one - it is the story of a New England grad-student in 1991 and it is also a story of the Salem witch trials in 1692. In 1991, Connie Goodwin is an American Colonial History graduate student at Harvard. She has just passed her oral examination for her doctorate degree and now she begins the search for a suitable dissertation topic.
Because it is summer break, Connie's mother, Grace, sets Connie to the task of clearing out her grandmother's house in the town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. The house turns out to be off the beaten path and totally overrun with shrubbery - it also has no electricity or telephone. There is an overgrown garden with old herbs and roots.
During the initial cleaning of the house, Connie comes upon a Bible that has a key hidden in its pates. The key holds a secret scrap of paper rolled up inside of it with the name, DELIVERANCE DANE written in tiny script. Connie eventually figures out Deliverance Dane is the name of a woman who lived in the late 1600s, and she concludes Dane must have been a witch. Eager to find Dane's "book of shadows" - or book of spells - Connie is sure this book with be just the primary source she need to complete her dissertation.
While on the search for this elusive book, Connie meets Sam, a young "steeplejack" from the town of Salem and the become friends. Things take a turn for the worse when Connie's academic advisor, Prof. Chilton, becomes obsessed with Connie finding the book of shadows - suddenly, Sam has a freak accident and then comes down with a mystifying illness.
It is obvious that Howe has done her research - the characters are well developed and the historical facts are accurate. According to her bio, she is supposedly a descendant of two women who endured the Salem panic of 1692, one of whom survived, one who didn't.
I enjoyed this book very much - I have always had a curiosity about witches and the Salem Witch trials. I enjoyed the way the book skipped back and forth between generation - it was fun to see Deliverance and her daughter Mercy, and it was helpful to know what was going on in Connie's life. There have been many mixed reviews on this book, but I am firmly in the category of liking this book and I look forward to more of Howe's work.