Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #38
Connie Goodwin is a Harvard graduate student ready to begin research for her doctoral dissertation. When her summer plans are interrupted by a request from her mother, she finds herself cleaning out an old family home near Salem, Massachusetts in order to get it ready to sell. But when Connie finds an old key with the name Deliverance Dane tucked inside, she soon has a research project that both applies to and goes beyond her dissertation. Who was Deliverance Dane and why was the key with her name in that bible from the 17th century in Connie’s grandmother’s house?
The book is alternates between time settings. Connie and her research take place in 1991 and the story of Deliverance Dane and her family begins about 10 years before the famous witch trials in Salem.
It’s a little difficult for me to pin down how I feel about this book. Parts of it I enjoyed a lot and other parts bugged a bit. I liked the historic sections partly because I’ve had a little bit of a fascination with Salem and the witch scare for a long time. I thought these sections were interesting and well researched. On the other hand, I found myself a little annoyed at Connie. For a character who was supposedly a scholar of Colonial history, she didn’t catch on to things that anyone who has read a smattering of historical fiction would know right off the bat. I was willing to let that slide as a way for the author to explain things to readers who might not catch on. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading about Connie’s research process and the sometimes tedious work that can result in a remarkable discovery. The mystery part was easy to figure out pretty early on, and the ending by the time it came around was no surprise at all.
Despite its flaws, however, I did enjoy the book and thought it was a good light read. Even though the conclusion is pretty obvious fairly early, the path of Connie’s research and the information about Colonial life is fascinating. I liked the extension of the story of the Salem trials that explored the impact on the families of the accused. This is particularly interesting as the author is herself a descendant of two women who were accused of being witches in Salem.