The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent wrote The Heretic's Daughter (2009) in part based on family history and legend to honor her ancestor, Martha Carrier, one of the people killed in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Told from the perspective of an older Sarah Carrier, Martha's daughter, looking back on her life in order to share with her own granddaughter what actually happened, the book starts with a very long description of regular life, starting in 1691. We see a family dealing with smallpox, living a shade above being homeless, and the unending work of farming at the time. We also learn about larger social themes, such as the role of religious conformity in Puritan society and the bonds and struggles of family relationships.

Then begins the descent into the madness of the Salem Witch Trials. Martha appears to have been targeted for being an assertive woman, one not necessarily enthralled by her religion.

Sarah and her three brothers also get arrested, as Martha warns Sarah will happen before her own arrest. And Sarah is left with the guilt of providing "testimony" against her own mother.

After reading the book, I spent way too much time last night looking on the Internet to learn more about what happened to some of the other figures mentioned in the book--Sarah's beloved cousin Margaret Toothaker (survived imprisonment with her mother only to be kidnapped by Native Americans in 1695 during a raid in which her mother is killed and never heard from again), Dorcas/Dorothy Good (imprisoned with her mother at the age of four--FOUR--and kept there alone for months after her mother's hanging), etc. That's a sign of the impact the book had on me.

At the same time, I have to note that anyone expecting a fast pace or a great deal of overblown drama likely won't appreciate this book. The charm is in the creation of the realistic day-to-day family life unhinged and forever altered by the events at Salem.

You can learn more at the publisher's site for the book here.

My overall personal rating of The Heretic's Daughter is a B+.


Anonymous said…
I totally agree with you about a book's "Google factor." I just made that up, but basically it's the measure of how successfully a book affects me when immediately after reading it, I start Googling details mentioned in it. Heretic's Daughter did affect me very much - haunted me, in fact. Martha is certainly an unforgettable character.
Lisa and Laura said…
Google factor needs to be a technical term. Especially when it comes to historical fiction. I've actually started watching The Tudors with my computer so I can google historical facts as I go. Really makes me wish I would have paid more attention in history!

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