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Friday, January 30, 2009

Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Title: The Heretic's Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Pages: 352
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (September 3, 2008)
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Edition: Hardback - Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.

Perfect for : Personal reading, great book club read, may be good for a history class discussing the Salem Witch Trials

In a nutshell: An intriguing story of a family severely impacted by both the smallpox and the Salem Witch Trials. The author, Kathleen Kent, is a descendant of the original Carrier family, which adds more reality to the story, as it has been written around actual events. Knowing that a lot of innocent people were hurt throughout the Salem Witch Trials, I had a hard time picking this book up, but once I started reading it, I had trouble putting it down! The book provides an amazing look into late 1600's America, a time when life was hard, where sickness wiped out entire towns, and people were unjustly persecuted. It also provides the perfect setting to understand why our freedom of religion is so important and why some fought so hard for that right.

Extended Review: The first half of the book introduces the family and the time in history to the reader, setting up relationships within the extended family. We also see how awful smallpox is and how quickly it can spread. The second half of the book focuses on the Salem Witch Trials, where in some cases family, friends and neighbors turned against each other, accusing each other of witchcraft.

The story is told by Sarah, the oldest daughter of the Carrier family. Through her eyes, we watch as the dynamics of her family change: as they move to her grandmother's home in order to be safer from Indian raids, they unknowingly bring the smallpox with them. The two girls are snuck out of the home and taken to a nearby relatives home until it is safe for them to return. Once they return, they watch as people are accused of witchcraft, and they are finally impacted when their own mother is accused and the children are taken to the trials to bear witness against their mother.

As I began the book, I was not particularly fond of Martha Carrier, Sarah's mother. To me, she seemed to be a harsh and unloving parent. By the end of the book, I had completely changed my opinion of her. She remained faithful to her beliefs and did not compromise her values in order to save herself. Instead, she does everything in her power to fight the injustices of the witch trials, believing that her innocence will be proven in the end. While she is in prison, she does everything she can to make sure her children are safe.

Characters: During this time in history, people had to be strong in order to survive. These characters are no exception. Kathleen Kent has woven a powerful story, peeking at Sarah's father's past, her mother's strength-of-character. Each character in the book has a purpose, and each helps to enhance the story being told.

Story-Line: For me, the story was really about the mother-daughter relationship and how it evolved between Sarah and Martha Carrier. While the book relates American history of the late 1600's, shining light on both the smallpox and the Salem Witch Trials, it is really one family's story of where they came from and how they have survived.

Readability: I did not have any problems reading the story, rather I had trouble putting it down.

Overall: This was a very powerful book, made even more amazing by the fact that it is based on actual events that happened within the writer's family in the late 1600's. This book gives the reader a wonderful view of what life was like during that time, and a shocking look into what can happen when people turn against each other out of spite, bitterness and jealousy. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, early America, and the Salem Witch Trials.

From the Publisher:
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 descendant 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.

First Paragraph:
The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles. For myself it was more than a journey away from the only home I had ever known. It was the ending of a passage from the dark fog of infancy to the sharp remembrances of childhood. I was nine years of age on that December day and my entire family was going back to live with my grandmother in the house where my mother was born. We were six in all, cramped together in an open wagon, carrying within my mother and father, two of my older brothers, myself, and Hannah, who was but a baby. We had with us all of our household possessions. And we were bringing , unbeknownst to any of us, the smallpox.

About the Author: (from the publisher's site)
Kathleen Kent lives in Dallas with her husband and son. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is her first novel.

If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please include a link in your comment!


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read this! I heard Kathleen Kent on Blog Talk Radio and she was fascinating.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this one very much, too! Here's the link to my review:


tanabata said...

This has been on my wish list since last year when it was mentioned on several blogs. It does sound like a great read.

Anonymous said...

This is on my bookshelf waiting patiently to be read. After your review I'll have to move it closer to the top of the pile!

Cathy said...

Here's a little something for you. You deserve it!

Bonnie said...

Excellent review Wendi! I loved the first paragraph.It pulled me right in! I like how you write your reviews, very nice!
I have had this book on my wishlist and can't wait to read it.

Hoarders Extraordinaire said...

Now I can't wait to read this! I'm moving it up in the pile!


Ruth King said...

This was one of my favorite reads in 2008. In fact, I think it's the only book I've given a 10/10 so far. I had a similar reaction to Martha Carrier. I didn't like her at first, but my attitude towards her did a complete 180 by the end of the book.

My review is here.

Anna said...

I've had my eye on this one for awhile! Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Diary of an Eccentric

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