Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Here is a summary of The Heretic's Daughter from the Hachette website:

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.

My Review:
This was a fascinating book that gave us a glimpse at what life was like for those persecuted during the times of the Salem Witch Trials.  This book is actually Sarah's story, who was a young girl that was thrown in prison along with her mother for practicing witchcraft.

Events spin out of control as the town slowly turns against the Carrier family.  The Carrier's were just another hardworking family that were just able to make ends meet.  After surviving the smallpox epidemic with minimal casualties one would think that life would get back to normal for the family.  But when the family took in a young girl, Mercy, to help with the farm chores, little did they know how this one girl would impact their future.

After Mercy has a falling out with the Carrier's she is sent to another farm to work.  Mercy obviously is harboring ill feelings over what took place and decides to make implications towards Martha Carrier every chance she could get.  It still amazes me to think that one girls claim of witchcraft could cause the incarceration and eventually the death of an innocent woman.

As they imprisoned these women, one after another from erroneous claims, they eventually would arrest the children for practicing witchcraft also.  Most of the children were released after admitting to the practicing of witchcraft, as long as they were able to survive their time in prison.  The conditions in the Salem jail were as inhumane as I could possibly imagine.  Everyone was housed together from babies to old men and women, there really was no segregation or privacy allowed, except for separating the individuals that were sure to be hung.

Eventually Sarah was incarcerated with all of her family, given the exception of her father.  Unfortunately she did not get the opportunity to be with her mother during this time since she was on the other side of the hall.  When she was able to inch close to the hall she could catch a glimpse of her mother who would always offer survival tips and words of encouragement.  This part of the story was just horrifying for me and some may find it difficult to read.

This was a very engaging story that taught me a lot about the events that took place during the Salem Witch Trials.  I really did not have much knowledge about this part of our history before reading this book.  Since my entire book club also enjoyed this book I do not hesitate in recommending this book for your group.  There are some great discussion questions and more information from the author available at the Hachette website here.  With themes of love, honor, pride and family this book will keep you turning the pages.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal collection and I read it for my own entertainment.  I actually received this book from Alyce from At Home With Books as a gift from the Book Blogger Holiday Swap from a couple of years thanks Alyce!


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I liked this book a lot as well and look forward to her 2nd book, The Wolves of Calla

bermudaonion said...

I've been wanting to read this book for a while, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this one, too. It really sucked me in.

Suzy Witten said...

Hi Jo-Jo,
Since you have an interest in Salem, you might consider reading my book: THE AFFLICTED GIRLS A Novel of Salem (ISBN: 978-0-615-32313-8) which won the 2010 IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction. It presents a different view of Salem from THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. Because of its spiritual and psychological elements, one historian wrote that for her it filled in gaps that have eluded the Salem historians for 300 years. This is adult fiction for ages 17 and older. "Something terrible happened in Salem Village in 1692 ... but it isn't what you think!" Thank you.
Suzy Witten, Author

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Great review! I have this one too. still haven't read it yet!

Jenny Girl said...

Wonderful review Jo-Jo. This time period fascinates me because it demonstrates the dangers of mass hysteria and such. Thanks for the recommendation.

Veens said...

I haven't read any books on the Salem Witch Trials and this has been on my wishlist for quite sometime.

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

I have this book and can't wait to get reading it after his review! I also have The Wolves of Andover and am looking forward to that on eas well.

Alyce said...

You're welcome! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it!

Esme said...

I read this book last CHristmas and quite enjoyed-it was fascinating that the main character was a relative of the author.

Anna said...

I won this book ages ago but haven't read it yet. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it, so I'll have to dig out my copy at some point.