Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Release Date: September 3, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha’s courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family’s deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.
Back when The Heretic’s Daughter was first released, there was a firestorm about it. It was one of those books that everyone was talking and blogging about, but for some reason, I didn’t get around to reading it. Now that I finally have, I can understand why everyone made such a big deal about this historical fiction novel – the amazingly vivid historical details combined with a fascinating time period make for a wonderful read.
Kathleen Kent really deserves praise for this novel. The details about the time period are impeccable; she knew exactly what to include to set perfect scenes that are vivid in her readers’ minds without crossing the line into tedious minutiae that can ruin a book. Kent obviously did a staggering amount of research for the novel, given the level of historical detail. The fact that she is personally connected to the subject probably increased her determination to get everything exactly right.
Martha Carrier’s story is also compelling. Told through the eyes of her daughter, Sarah, we slowly get to know this cold, hard woman and understand her. It is interesting to watch Sarah come of age and slowly comprehend what is going on around her, and what sacrifices her mother made. Their relationship is not exactly warm at the beginning of the novel; while it doesn’t turn into sheer love over the course of The Heretic’s Daughter, Sarah begins to understand the depth of the love her mother has for her, even if she hasn’t been able to show it. Kent draws her characters very well, making them three-dimensional and layered. There is also the mystery behind Sarah’s father’s past, which is a driving force in the novel.
The Salem witch trials are a fascinating, albeit disturbing, time period in American history, and Kent certainly gives them their due in The Heretic’s Daughter. This book is a must read for any fans of American history or historical fiction. This is a novel that won’t disappoint!