Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter

Jessica's favorite books »

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  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.

My Thoughts:  It never ceases to amaze me how people commit the most atrocious acts against each other.  How easily is it to accuse someone of a crime?  How easily is it to lie?  In The Heretic's Daughter you see this first hand.  
The novel starts out (after the prologue) with Sarah Carrier, the main character, in a wagon with her 3 brothers, her parents and her baby sister.  The Carrier's are on their way to Martha's mother's house in Andover.  They are leaving their home in Billerica, trying to outrun the Smallpox disease.  

They are not happily welcomed in Andover.  This is mostly due to the fact that Martha Carrier is a loud, stubborn woman who stands up for herself.  While we applaud women today who are like this in the 1690's this was not acceptable.  Tom Carrier, Sarah's father, was a quiet giant of a man who was feared by many.  So, while they weren't happily accepted, they were accepted.  

Shortly after arriving, Sarah's brother Andrew comes down with the Smallpox and Sarah and her baby sister Hannah are quietly taken out of Andover to Martha's sister's house (back in Billerica).  There Sarah gets to know her cousin Margaret and they become close friends.  They quickly become part of the family and Sarah loves to hear her uncle's stories.  However, all good things must end and soon Sarah and Hannah are taken back to their family's home sans Grandma as she has passed from the Smallpox disease.  The rest of Sarah's family has made it through however.

The next part of the book might be a little slow for some but I enjoyed learning about life on a farm in the 1600's.  Life was hard back then and people didn't show their love to their spouses or children as they do now.  Martha comes off as a hard and sometimes cruel and uncaring mother.  Sarah and Martha do not get along and Sarah holds great resentment towards her mother.  

The Carrier's then get a girl who had been abducted by the Indians as a maid.  She is a wild and uncouth child and has her eyes set on Sarah's oldest brother.  Mercy (the maid) and Martha do not get along and when Mercy lies to Martha about being pregnant, Martha kicks her out.

At the same time that the Carrier's are having trouble with Mercy, the start of the Salem Witch Trials happen.  In Salem Village (7 miles away), the infamous girls are screaming that their neighbors and enemies are witches and hurting them.  As the hysteria grows, people in Andover are looking at the Carrier's with a new eye.  Then Martha gets accused and taken in.  

Now, I have to admit, I know very little of the Salem Witch Trials.  I have read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and I have learned a little in high school history classes but that is all.  While I thought The Witch of Blackbird Pond was a wonderful book, it is written for young adults and therefore, you don't get to hear the atrocities committed against these people.  Kathleen Kent paints a vivid picture of the jail cellar, the torture, the hysteria and the illnesses that overtook the accused.  The trials were a sham and all one had to do was accuse another of witchcraft and the hysteria would mount.  

Many innocent people were hanged and tortured during this time.  All because of some bored girls who thought it would bring a little excitement to their winter days.  As it spiraled out of control, I'm not sure if they would even have known how to have stopped it.  In the end, only one of the girls recanted her story.

This book was fascinating and very well told.  The characters were made real and I could connect to each and every one of the Carrier's.  It is a must read!

1 comment:

  1. Great review. How interesting that the characters have a connection with the author. I'm with you on the acts of people. I wish everyone would leave each other alone.