Set years after the events of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe’s The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs features the continuing adventures of academic and descendent-of-witches Connie Goodwin. Connie has finished her graduate work and is on the cusp of receiving tenure at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. It seems like she is finally about to get everything she wants, but an old curse is about to rear its head at the same time as an old enemy reaches out through a new catspaw. There’s a lot on Connie’s plate in this book.
Perhaps it’s my career in academia (though I am not tenure-track), but I felt strongly for Connie. I read an article by Adam Hunter in The Atlantic about the death of an adjunct working in higher education who died because she lacked health insurance that has made me even more sensitive to the plight of adjuncts and tenure-track faculty. Connie is working flat out (and has been for a while) to make sure that she gets tenure. (If she doesn’t, it means starting all over somewhere else or working as an adjunct for peanuts.) Connie’s long-term boyfriend, is starting to resent the amount of time Connie has to devote to her job. Her friends and colleagues understand. They’re on the same hamster wheel as Connie is. And Connie has an ally not just in her academic work but in her secret work with what remains of her ancestress’, Deliverance Dane, recipe book. This ally, Zazi, is a graduate student with her own interest in the history of witchcraft—thought she specializes in hoodoo and voodoo.
It’s a good thing that Connie has Zazi on her side. They are a great team, especially when Connie’s mother is reluctant to offer much help with a problem even bigger than getting tenure: a curse that leads to the accidental, untimely deaths of the men in the family shortly after their children are conceived or born. Connie is pregnant and a clock has just ticking for Sam. (All the stress Connie is under cannot be good for her health or the health of her progeny.) The curse and tenure force Connie to confront her life choices. The feminist in me chafes a bit at the fact that Connie can’t have the work, love, and life of her dreams. That said, I can appreciate it when someone has to do some serious thinking about whether or not they were working towards something that could actually make them happy. (Still…)
The end of this book is like a plot explosion, in the best possible way. Everything in The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs leads up to a collision of main and subplots and magic that feels deeply satisfying. There are some parts that drag or that felt skimmed over in the race to get to the conclusion. In spite of the pacing problem, I enjoyed this book the deeper I got. I haven’t read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, so I had to pick up on what happened in this book from references to her previous adventures. I didn’t feel lost exactly. I felt more like I wanted to know more about Connie’s ancestress and her book of “recipes” (spells); I might read The Physick Book just for more time with Connie and her ancestors. I very much enjoyed my time with the characters and history Howe has created.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.