Book Review: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe returns to the world of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane with a bewitching story of a New England history professor who must race against time to free her family from a curse

Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society’s threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is a sequel ten years in the making, following the author’s 2009 debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and the story itself picks up 10 years later too. Former graduate student Connie Goodwin is now a history professor at Northeastern University, under consideration for tenure and living happily with her boyfriend Sam Hartley, whom she met during the events of the first book.

Sam’s feelings are hurt by Connie’s continuing refusal to discuss marriage. What he doesn’t know is that Connie is descended from a line of witches going all the way back to 17th century Salem, and that the male partners of the women in the family all seem to die young, in tragic circumstances. As their relationship becomes complicated in new ways, Connie is determined to find out the truth about the curse, and discovers a startling secret: there is actually one woman in the family’s history who managed to break the curse for her own husband.

Armed with this knowledge, Connie races against time to crack the mystery of the “weather work”, the elusive and seemingly highly dangerous spell that once upon a time saved her ancestor’s mate. Connie applies her scholarly skills as she unearths manuscripts and deciphers centuries old clues, this time enlisting friends, colleagues, and her own mother in a desperate attempt to get it all right.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is a great second chapter in Connie’s world. It’s quite fun to see her 10 years after the original book, now established and respected as a professor, mentoring up and coming grad students of her own. And it’s wonderful to see the enduring love between her and Sam, who is a lovely, kind, and sexy man. The interludes in which we see episodes from Connie’s family’s past are really engaging in their own way as well, although it’s definitely sad to see the persecution of these women who were considered different from the norm.

I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the research, and the historical elements, and the magical aspects are presented in a matter-of-fact way that still manages to have an eerie, otherworldly feel.

I suppose you could read The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs as a stand-alone, but you’d be missing out on big chunks of Connie’s personal history as well as all that family history. I’d strongly recommend starting with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and continuing on from there. Well worth it!

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The details:

Title: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs
Author: Katherine Howe
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication date: June 25, 2019
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Audiobook Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Witch of Blackbird Pond

The newest edition

Growing up in Connecticut, reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond was an absolute must. For years, I’ve remembered reading it back in my school days, and I know that I loved it at the time, but I couldn’t have told you much about it except for the barest of bare bones…. until now!

I was looking for a new audiobook this past week, and doing a Halloween-themed post about witches brought this children’s classic to mind. What a treat! I’m so thrilled to have revisited this terrific story.

In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, it’s 1687, and Katherine (Kit) Tyler sails into Wethersfield, Connecticut to join the household of her last remaining relatives, her Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matthew, and their two daughters, Judith and Mercy. 16-year-old Kit has lived all her life in Barbados, raised by her loving grandfather, but after his death she’s left with nothing, and leaves her beautiful island behind to start a new life among the Puritans of New England

Kit is taken in by her family, but has a hard time fitting into the rigid, restrictive life she finds in Connecticut. Her only sense of joy and freedom comes through her secret visits to the old Quaker woman, Hannah Tupper, who lives alone in a small cottage in the meadow by Blackbird Pond. Hannah is both feared and scorned by the townspeople, and despite being warned away, Kit’s visits to Hannah soon lead to danger for both of them.

I'm pretty sure this is what the book looked like when I read it eons ago!

I’m pretty sure this is what the book looked like when I read it eons ago!

I simply love this book! The language is incredibly descriptive, especially the depictions of autumn in Connecticut, and Kit’s first encounter with snow. But really, the entire thing is so well written. The words paint such a picture of Kit’s life, contrasting the Puritan bleakness with the lushness of the tropical islands.

The characters are distinct and memorable, from Kit’s kind-hearted cousin to the wealthy boy who courts Kit to the poor, hungry child who views Kit as a refuge and friend. Likewise, the plot is sharp and well-developed. The story moves along at a steady pace, but never rushes. The author manages to build drama and tension into the story, even while portraying simple moments like fixing a roof or teaching children to read their ABCs.

As for the audiobook, narrator Mary Beth Hurt does a lovely job bringing the story to life. Her voice is well suited to Kit, and yet she also pulls off the crackly old voice of Hannah and the childish voice of the young girl, Prudence. The pacing is quite good, and I felt so engaged by listening that I found myself taking the long way home just so I could listen a bit more while I drove.

Enough gushing. If you’ve never read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, you’re missing out! It’s never too late, though — the story feels fresh and exciting, even all these years after its publication. And if you’re like me, having read the book ages ago, give yourself a treat and re-read it or listen to the audiobook. I’m so happy that I did!

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The details:

Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Narrator: Mary Beth Hurt
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Publication date: 1958
Audiobook length: 6 hours, 24 minutes
Printed book length: 256 pages
Genre: Historical fiction (young adult)
Source: Library (Overdrive)