I bought The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane because I was attracted to the cover, I was intrigued by the story, and I was really excited that the author was a graduate student - it gives me hope that, not only are there other people out there in my situation, but other things can be accomplished while working on the dissertation.
The main character is also a graduate student, and the book opens with her qualifying exams. Something that I remember well - though in my department they were called Prelim exams, the oral portion was still pretty terrifying.
The thing that I loved about Connie - the protagonist - is that her grad-student-ness is really believable. Even though I don't completely agree with every way that she is presented, particularly when she talks about how she and her roommate lived off a free cheese plate from a department meeting for a week. That's a bit of an exaggeration, at least in my experience, because I've always had a teaching job (though, of course, I'm sure that Cambridge is a more expensive place to live than Madison, so I'll give it to her). It's clear that Howe is also enmeshed in that world. I also really appreciated Connie's finely-honed skill of research. It's something that is often overlooked by people who don't understand the life of a graduate student, but is one of our most marketable qualities.
Somehow, the even less-than-plausible aspects of this book were still believable, and the way that they were presented made them that way. I still won't go into great detail, but I think this was one of the better books I've read this summer, and maybe even this year. I was pleased to see that the characters were all presented as strong people, and I thought that the relationship between Connie and her mother, Grace, was really honest and complicated; I also liked the relationship between Connie and her best graduate student friend and roommate, Liz.
Definitely recommend this book.
Overall, 4.25 out of 5.