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The Heretic's Daughter

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

Courage

When studying the various phenomena of the Salem Witch Trials, it is close to impossible for today's reader to imagine the terror and the suffering experienced by the accused, including those who were not found guilty. In The Heretic's Daughter, author Kathleen Kent has...
When studying the various phenomena of the Salem Witch Trials, it is close to impossible for today's reader to imagine the terror and the suffering experienced by the accused, including those who were not found guilty. In The Heretic's Daughter, author Kathleen Kent has done a powerful,creditable job of approximating just that. The daughter of the title is arrested after her mother, Martha Carrier, one of the "witches" condemned to death and hanged. As she tells of her involvement, Sarah recounts the horrors of the summer and fall of 1692, and its slow but relentless progression from suspicion to execution, from incredulity to helplessness. Her narrative is a simple one, but so affecting that the reader is drawn into the insanity together with Sarah and her family, who were all but destroyed by the madness. The physical and emotional underpinnings of the mass delusion are seamlessly woven into the story, which seems as real as if it happened only a few years ago. The Heretic's Daughter is a stellar work of historical fiction, by far the best novelization of this topic that I've encountered.

posted by katknit on December 21, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Glad it's over

One of the most boring books I have ever read. It drags on forever and never gives you anything new. Pass on this one!

posted by Qui0330 on May 29, 2012

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  • Posted December 21, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Courage

    When studying the various phenomena of the Salem Witch Trials, it is close to impossible for today's reader to imagine the terror and the suffering experienced by the accused, including those who were not found guilty. In The Heretic's Daughter, author Kathleen Kent has done a powerful,creditable job of approximating just that. The daughter of the title is arrested after her mother, Martha Carrier, one of the "witches" condemned to death and hanged. As she tells of her involvement, Sarah recounts the horrors of the summer and fall of 1692, and its slow but relentless progression from suspicion to execution, from incredulity to helplessness. Her narrative is a simple one, but so affecting that the reader is drawn into the insanity together with Sarah and her family, who were all but destroyed by the madness. The physical and emotional underpinnings of the mass delusion are seamlessly woven into the story, which seems as real as if it happened only a few years ago. The Heretic's Daughter is a stellar work of historical fiction, by far the best novelization of this topic that I've encountered.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Heretic's Daughter vs Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

    I read this book and the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. What a contrast! Heretic's Daughter is 99.9% based on actual fact, while the other books is a complete distortion of history which slanders the memory of the victims of the witch trials. It is truly depressing to me that the Physick book is so wildly popular (almost 300 reviews on B&N alone), while Heretic's Daughter is much less so. What a commentary.

    One of the things I liked about the Heretic's Daughter is that it takes the focus away from the trials. I don't know of another book or non-fiction that examines the impact of the event on the thousands of relatives of the accused nor reveals the ordeals of the accused who were "merely" imprisoned. Some people died in prison and they are as much victims of the witch hunt as the ones who were hung. Some were literally deranged by their experience, like the 5 year old Dorcas Hoar, who not surprisingly, was never "right in the head" after the experience. What an awful event, ministers of God accusing a 5 year old girl of being a witch and throwing her in prison. A truly horrible period in our history, which is respectfully and truthfully dealt with in this book. It is well written, poetic at times and does honor to the memory of the innnocent men and women who were victims of the hysteria.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    it's personal

    Most of my historical reading experience has been the Tudors with maybe a little bit before then with the Plantagenets. I usually don't delve into American History; I think it's too new and too young to even be considered history. (Yes, I know America is over 225 years old...but compared to Egypt and Asia and Europe, it's still too young!) I picked up this book at the Boston Book Festival in October because I met the author at one of the seminars. She gave a great review of the novel during her talk (of course she did...) and it caught my attention. So I bought it and even had her autograph it for me, then the second I got home, I entered New England, circa 1690.

    Considering this is a first novel by a new author, I am incredibly impressed. The imagery leaped out at me, and I could practically see the fear and the chaos that was the start and entire foundation of the Salem Witch Trials. Sarah Carrier takes you through her own ordeal-- her trial, being jailed, the hanging of her mother, everything-- so you see first-hand how the families in the area lived in trepidation.

    Kathleen Kent is related to Martha Carrier, Sarah's mother, so she grew up with this story. It is personal. And it comes out in the book. She tells the story with such care and honesty; no one who did not have a close personal connection to it would not have done such a great job. It is almost as though Ms Kent is proud to have had Martha as her ancestor; after all, Martha died for her beliefs, stating until the end that she was innocent of witchcraft. Who wouldn't want such a valiant ancestor?

    Going into the book, having listened to Ms Kent at the Book Festival, I knew the story. But that did not stop me from enjoying it! The story was written in such a way that the reader stuck with Sarah the entire time-- felt her pain and chagrin, her need for acceptance, her horrifying time in shackles. I can't really say I identified with her since I've never been put on trial for being a witch (I was a witch once for Halloween, but I don't think that counts), but she was very real and human and had to endure hardships that most of us don't even think about in our lifetimes.

    It's always good to step out of your comfort zone once in a while and read about a different era. It was actually rather refreshing and educational. Having lived in New England since high school, I did learn about the Witch Trials and have even been to Salem, but it definitely makes a difference to hear a first-hand account from someone who was there.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    HIDDEN TRUTH

    Facing the crowd, you see the hate, the fear, the awe. But, none of that matters. You are looking for one lone figure. The tallest one, in the back. You say all you can with your eyes. Then, darkness invades as you drop away, followed by death. This is Martha Carrier's last moment -- standing before her community waiting to be hanged. In "The Heretic's Daughter" by Kathleen Kent, Martha and her family must survive the accusations that their small town of Salem, Massachusetts, has saddled them. With their mother gone and suspicious eyes still watching, Sarah Carrier must not only care of her brothers and sister but also keep her family safe from the gallows.

    A heart-wrentching story of one girl's survival of the biggest lie in American history. Kent writes eloquently and the tale flies along. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys a look into the past, or anyone who enjoys a tale of survival and wits. I loved Kent's characters and her ability to place twists and hope in all the right places.

    Truly a good read that has earned its place on my bookshelf.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Moving and captivating.

    I loved the fact that I could, through the writer's decription, picture the world of the Carrier's through their everyday life and the most horrific parts. Even knowing the outcome did not diminish this book one bit. Captivating and yet quite disturbing due to the history of the witch trials. It brings the story of these poor people who lived or died because of the trials alive. I feel as if I personally knew one of them.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2013

    This is an exceptional study of life during the Salem witch tria

    This is an exceptional study of life during the Salem witch trials.......and, even though, I thought I knew and understood the time period....Ms. Kent made it completely real and riveting. I had ancestors in the same jail with Martha Carrier, after reading 'The Heretics' Daughter', I came away with a totally different pov and respect for my ancestors.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    Wonderfully Imagined & Written

    Taking a slice out of her family's own history, Kathleen Kent has written a novel that is touching and haunting. "The Heretic's Daughter" has left me thinking about the ties between friends, family, mothers and daughters, and one's faith. This is certainly not your "typical" Salem witch hunt novel.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2009

    Hauntingly Disturbing

    In-depth characters and historical background takes readers intimately back to the time during the Salem witch trials... Lets the reader see how easily an atrocity like this could happen - even in present day times.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Brutal, Realistic, and finally...Uplifting

    What struck me first about this narrative was how callous at times this family seems towards eachother, and I had to keep reminding myself that expectations were different then. Andover and Salem in the 1600's were a different reality altogether. Children were expected to occupy an entirely more active role in their family's toils, and if it seemed callous, it was only the complete acceptance that one needed to be strong and deal with what came along, even if you were only 10 years old.
    This is the backdrop for the story that unfolds, the harsh, unrelenting work of the everyday, and the people who bend themselves to it. Mary Carrier is no exception to this, but from the first, she is looking for something more. The craving she can't define comes to settle on her mother, Martha, a no-nonsense, common-sense woman who cannot abide foolishness, duplicity, and hypocrisy in anyone. She doesn't shy away from pointing these failings out to anyone, either, which garners a healthy amount of fear and animosity among her neighbors, and sets the stage for the confrontations during the Witch Trials that are to come.
    Mary doesn't observe this stregnth of character, however. What she sees is a hard, unfeeling woman who seems to care nothing for her children, who needs nothing from her children but their work. In comparison, her aunt and uncle, who she stays with during an outbreak of small pox, seem like heaven personified. Their care of her is so different from that of her own parents that Mary finds herself praying to God that her mother is struck down so that she never has to leave the haven she has found with her cousin's family. But leave she must, and her return to her family makes her so bitter that she is blind to the faith, stregnth, and moral fiber of her mother.
    In the traditions of Hawthorne, Miller, and countless others who have chronicled the tragedy of the Witch Trials, many elements conspire to bring Martha Carrier down: a feckless brother who wants an inheritance he isn't entitled to, an immoral bondservant who attempts to coerce one of the Carrier sons to marry her, and a town that can't abide the outspoken woman who illuminates them as they really are...petty, greedy, and foolish. The resulting torture and imprisonment of her family finally gives Mary what she was looking for all along. The love she imagined from her relatives disappears as the hysteria of the trials grows, and Mary comes to see that her mother's sacrifices and unrelenting strength of character are her legacy and her love for her family. This moment in the book is so painful, so poinant, and so well written that it stays with me even now. Mary's guilt after is almost unbearable, but she comes to the place her mother always intended her to be: I love you by giving you the person I know I am; I honor you by my unwillingness to waver from that compass, even if I must die.
    The audio version of this book is narrated by Mare Winningham, who does an exceptional job of conveying the horror, heartache, and hope of this story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2009

    A touching story of maternal sacrifice.

    Set during a peculiar time of American history, this story tells how jealousies can lead to deliberate misunderstandings, lies and vengefulness -- an ugly underbelly of human nature.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    An Excellent Read

    If I had not read so at the end, I would not have guesed this was a first book. Perhaps that speaks more to some of my latest reader choices however.

    The story is well written and plot, despite being historical, moves along at a good pace. Where the story's voice ponders, so do you. Descriptions are meaningful for the most part and do not drag the plot. I would recommend this coming of age novel to anyone.

    I was left emotionally satisfied despite the many emotions such stories put you through--sadness, anger to outrage, relief, and finally an overwhelming sense that Sarah turned out ok and a decent human being in opposition to the horror and injustice she endured.

    What I liked best, however, was that Sarah was never portrayed as a simpering little kid. She fought for her mother and the injustice she saw the best a ten year old female could during those times. Her God-job, her destiny, her purpose was not to fight "the man" or take on the world and defend the the whole of it all and make this monumental mark in history. That was her mothr's burden. Sarah was a force in her family and friends and to be a confidant, sort of, for her mother. By being the strong-willed, independent, cautious girl that her mother raised her to be, by example and treatment, she allowed her mother to feel better about how her family would get along after she made her stand for truth.

    I will read it again, one day, for it spoke to me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    Easy enough yet draws ones attention

    Book was quite good and would continue to read others books put out by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    I couldn't put this book down. The details and story line were so graphic and vivid that the story just flowed. This book stays with you after you finish reading it.

    I more than enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to read something outside of the box.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2008

    A must read if you are from the area!

    I wanted to read this book due to the fact I grew up in the Salem/Beverly, Massachusetts area. I have always heard the stories of the Salem Witch trials. And have been to many of the surrounding areas. The mentioning of Gallows Hill was amazing to me since I know exactly where that is in Salem. The book was very descriptive & brought the history that has been around me to life. Definitely a must read for anyone who has ever lived in that area of Massachusetts.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 16, 2014

    Intricately woven story told from the vantage point of a young g

    Intricately woven story told from the vantage point of a young girl living in Andover, several miles outside Salem. I appreciate that although the climax of the novel was the Salem Witch Trials, ample context is given before the witch hunts begin. These struggling communities were dealing with smallpox, Indian raids, family feuds, devastating fires, etc., all of which contributed to a pervasive fear honed by hardships. The author is a master wordsmith. Stunning imagery evokes not just a vivid sense of setting, but a grippingly intense window into the characters' emotional lives. I read it twice, back to back, just to fully appreciate the rich prose.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2014

    An interesting perspective on the Salem Witch Trials.

    An interesting perspective on the Salem Witch Trials.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2013

    Highly recommend

    Amazing story. Great characters and well written.

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  • Posted October 18, 2013

    Thought provoking ...

    What part of the text was actual history and what part of the text was fiction ... WOW! very powerful!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2013

    Loved this book!!!!

    One of my favorite books of all time. Highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Visually Stunning Narrative

    The descriptive sentences and relatively few dialoge scenes help to make this a novel that will change how you look at books. Kent has masterfully weaved the still popular and intriguing history of the Salem witch trials with the daily struggle of understanding between Mother and Daughter. A fantastic story. All the more so because it is true.

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