The Heretic's Daughter

( 227 )

Overview

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...

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The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Michele Leber
An illuminating literary debut.
Booklist
Barbara Hoffert
Highly recommended.
Library Journal
Chelsea Cain
A powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature.
New York Times Book Review
Carol Memmot
Kent's moving story comes straight from her heart as well as the historical record...Kent tells a heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice.
USA Today
Christian Science Monitor
".... an eminently readable novel, and a tribute to a woman who held steadfastly to the courage of her convictions."
Joy Tipping
Ms. Kent brings a gentle decency to her portrait of this nasty episode in American life.
Dallas Morning News
New York Daily News
An authentically moving story that is as much about a mother and a daughter as the terror of the times.
People
"Gripping and evocative, THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is a powerful tale of a perilous time."
Texas Monthly
"THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is haunting; unlike in seventeenth-century Salem, there is real magic at work here."
San Francisco Examiner
"A family's conflict becomes a battle for life or death in this gripping and original first novel...Sarah's front row view of the trials and the mayhem that sweeps the close-knit community provides a fresh, bracing and unconventional take on a much covered episode."
Bloomberg News
"[a] close look at family and village life, at the hearth and the harshness out of which the accusations of witchcraft grew... The misery behind bars reflects Kent's rich imagination. She also shows the fruits of historical research in details that let you glimpse the past as it was lived, in the barn or field, at the inn or church. To this she adds descriptive gifts.... It goes on like that, wonderfully. I hope Kent does too."
Anita Shreve
"The Heretic's Daughter is raw, honest and completely captivating..."
Michele Leber - Booklist (starred review)
"An illuminating literary debut."
Carol Memmot - USA Today
"Kent's moving story comes straight from her heart as well as the historical record...Kent tells a heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice."
Chelsea Cain - New York Times Book Review
"A powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature."
Joy Tipping - Dallas Morning News
"Ms. Kent brings a gentle decency to her portrait of this nasty episode in American life."
NY Daily News
"An authentically moving story that is as much about a mother and a daughter as the terror of the times."
From the Publisher
The Heretic's Daughter is raw, honest and completely captivating..."—Anita Shreve

"An illuminating literary debut."—Michele Leber, Booklist (starred review)

Highly recommended.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (starred review)

"A powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature."—Chelsea Cain, New York Times Book Review

"Kent's moving story comes straight from her heart as well as the historical record...Kent tells a heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice."—Carol Memmot, USA Today

".... an eminently readable novel, and a tribute to a woman who held steadfastly to the courage of her convictions."—Christian Science Monitor

"Ms. Kent brings a gentle decency to her portrait of this nasty episode in American life."—Joy Tipping, Dallas Morning News

"An authentically moving story that is as much about a mother and a daughter as the terror of the times."—NY Daily News

"Gripping and evocative, THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is a powerful tale of a perilous time."—People

"THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is haunting; unlike in seventeenth-century Salem, there is real magic at work here."—Texas Monthly

"A family's conflict becomes a battle for life or death in this gripping and original first novel...Sarah's front row view of the trials and the mayhem that sweeps the close-knit community provides a fresh, bracing and unconventional take on a much covered episode."—San Francisco Examiner

"[a] close look at family and village life, at the hearth and the harshness out of which the accusations of witchcraft grew... The misery behind bars reflects Kent's rich imagination. She also shows the fruits of historical research in details that let you glimpse the past as it was lived, in the barn or field, at the inn or church. To this she adds descriptive gifts.... It goes on like that, wonderfully. I hope Kent does too."—Bloomberg News

Publishers Weekly

The panic and horror of the Salem witch trials in Kent's novel is conveyed with dead-eyed calm and an occasional tremor of emotion by Mare Winningham, whose tempered, dispassionate voice is not given to great displays of drama. Her melodiousness is pleasing to the ear, and Kent's novel becomes a sort of long-form song possessed of many verses and no chorus. At times, the melody overwhelms the meaning, but Winningham is more than capable as a reader, and her reading of Kent's sad tale of women accused and accusing emits a hint of deeply buried, untouchable tragedy. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, June 30). (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Kent, a descendant of Martha Carrier (one of the first women convicted of witchcraft in 1690s Salem, MA), has created an engrossing historical debut novel based on her ancestors' experiences. Told from the point of view of Sarah, Martha's daughter, it is filled with vivid characters and detail-rich anecdotes of everyday life in Puritan New England. Emmy® Award-winning actress Mare Winningham's clear, believable reading flows well, even through those few times when the prose gets a bit bogged down (particularly when Martha is imprisoned). For public libraries. [Audio clip, downloadable podcast, and book trailer available through www.hachettebookgroup.com; the Little, Brown hc received a starred review, LJ7/08.-Ed.]
—Denise A. Garofalo

School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Told from the point of view of young Sarah, the daughter of one of the first women to be accused, tried, and hanged as a witch in Salem, this novel paints a vivid and disturbing picture of Puritan New England life. Based on fact and the author's family history, the story portrays Martha, Sarah's mother, as a strong-willed nonconformist who knows she is a target of the zealots who pit family members against one another with their false accusations. All but one of the siblings end up imprisoned with their mother, and much of the story is told from the inhumane and corruptly run jail. When Martha is finally executed, her husband "would stand for all of us so that when she closed her eyes for the last time, there would be a counterweight of love against the overflowing presence of vengeance and fear." History is brought to life as readers learn of the strength of Martha's convictions and the value she places on her conscience. They will also appreciate the themes of family love, repression, intolerance, and persecution in this beautifully written and compelling first novel.-Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Kirkus Reviews
A first-time novelist recreates her family's involvement in the Salem witch trials. On August 19, 1692, Martha Carrier was hanged. She was one of the first women convicted of witchcraft amidst the hysteria that started in Salem and spread throughout Massachusetts. Kent is a tenth-generation descendent of Carrier, and, in this novel, she looks at this troubled time through the eyes of Martha's daughter. As Sarah Carrier tells her story, she creates a vivid portrait of the harsh, hard-headed woman who was her mother. When the story begins, Sarah begrudges her mother's stubbornness and severity. She knows that the neighbors resent Martha's sharp tongue, and Martha's unyielding attitude toward her sister's husband means that Sarah is separated from her beloved cousin. When petty village feuds turn into whispered rumors about Martha's dealings with the devil, Martha remains steadfast in her protestations of innocence, and Sarah learns that her mother's willfulness is the product of integrity, courage and fierce individuality. Sarah learns, in fact, that the very qualities that condemned her mother redeemed her as well. The story Kent tells-of a powerful woman punished by a society that fears and hates women-is not a new one. It's not a bad one, either, but this particular iteration is not one of the most compelling. One problem is that Sarah is one of the less remarkable characters in the novel. Both her parents are substantially more intriguing and would have made for dynamic central characters. In fact, Kent seems to have a general problem with distinguishing between the interesting and the uninteresting. The pace of her narrative slows to a crawl, offering lyrical, metaphor-laden, mostlyunilluminating descriptions of the natural world. And her practice of breaking the novel into little sections that inevitably end on a portentous note give the story a leaden, numbing rhythm. Serviceable, if unexciting, historical fiction with a feminist perspective. Agent: Julie Barer/Barer Literary
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316024495
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/12/2009
  • Pages: 332
  • Sales rank: 72,801
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent lives in Dallas with her husband and son. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt


The Heretic's Daughter

A Novel


By Kathleen Kent
Little, Brown
Copyright © 2008

Kathleen Kent
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-0-316-02448-8



Chapter One Massachusetts, December 1690

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 house hold possessions. And we were bringing, unbeknownst to any of us, the smallpox.

A plague of it had swept across the settlements of Middlesex County, and with our crossing east over Blanchard's Plain, contagion and death followed with us. A close neighbor, John Dunkin of Billerica, had died within the space of one week, leaving a widow and seven children. Another neighbor brought us the news, and before the door could close on the messenger, my mother had started packing. We had thought to outrun the pox this time. My father had bitter memories of being blamed for bringing the pox into Billerica many years before. He always said it was because he was a Welshman and a stranger to the town, even after living there for so many years, that he stood accused. But the disease crept along with us like a pariah dog. It was my older brother Andrew who would be the first to succumb. He carried the seeds of sickness within him, and from him it would spread to our new town of residence.

It was deep into the season and so bitterly cold, the liquid from our streaming eyes and noses froze onto our cheeks like frosted ribbons of lace. All of us had dressed in every bit of clothing that we possessed and we pressed tightly together for warmth. The crudely hewn boards of the wagon had been covered with straw, and my brothers and I had wrapped it around us as best we could. The draft horse labored under his load, for he was not a young gelding, and his breath steamed in great puffs into the air. His coat was as woolly as any bear's and encrusted with a forest of icicles that hung down sharply from his belly. Richard, my oldest brother, was not with us. He was near a man at sixteen and had been sent ahead to help ready the house for our arrival, bringing provisions strapped across the back of our one remaining ox.

Father and Mother sat at the front of the wagon silent, as was their habit. They rarely spoke to each other in our presence and only then of weights and measures and time delineated by the seasons. The language of field and home. He often deferred to her, which seemed remarkable, as he towered over my mother. Indeed, he towered over everyone. He was close to seven feet tall, so it was said, and to me, being a small child, his head seemed to rest in the clouds, his face forever in shadow. He was forty-eight years of age when he married my mother, so I had always thought of him as an old man, even though he carried himself erect and was fleet of foot. Thomas Carrier, so the gossip went, had come from old England as a young man to escape some troubles there. As my father never spoke of his life before marrying, and for truth said hardly a word regarding anything at all, I did not know his history before he plied his trade as farmer in Billerica.

I knew only two things for certain of his past. The first was that my father had been a soldier during the civil wars of the old England. He had a red coat, old and battered and faded to rust, which he had brought with him from London. One arm was torn, as though slashed through with something sharp, and Richard had told me that, but for the padded lining in the sleeve, Father would have lost an arm for sure. When I pressed Richard for more of the story as to how and where Father had fought, my brother would purse his lips and say, "Ah, but you're only a girl and cannot know the ways of men." The other thing I knew was that men feared him. Often behind my father's back they would gesture secretly to one another a peculiar signal. A thumb passed over the neck from one side to the other as if to sever their heads from their bodies. But if Father ever saw these gestures, he gave them no notice.

My mother, who was Martha Allen before marrying, sat next to him, holding Hannah, only one year old. She was wrapped into a shapeless bundle and held loosely like a package. I remember watching my little sister with the cruel fascination of a child, wondering when she would topple out of the wagon. We had lost a baby sister, Jane, years before and my lack of close affection could have been for fear that this baby would die as well. The first year was so fragile that some families did not name their child until the child was past twelve months and more likely to live. And in many house holds if a baby died, that same baby's name would be passed on to the next born. And to the very next if that babe died as well.

At times I suspected my mother had no tender feelings for any of us, even though we were as different from one another as children could be. Richard was very much like Father: tall, silent, and as impenetrable as the rocks in Boston Bay. Andrew, the next oldest, had been a sweet child and cheerfully willing to work, but as he grew, he stayed rather slow in thought and often my mother lost patience with him. Tom, the third son, was closest to me in years and closest to my heart. He was quick and bright, his humors running hot and restless like mine, but he was often afflicted with attacks of labored breathing and so, at the times of seasons' changing, had not much strength to work in the field or barn. I was next in age, stubborn and willful, I was often enough told, and thus not easily loved. I approached the world with suspicion, and because I was not pretty or pliable, I was not doted upon. I often challenged my betters and was therefore often chastised vigorously with a slotted spoon we children had named Iron Bessie.

It was my manner to openly stare at the people around me, despite knowing how this discomforted them, especially my mother. It was as though my staring robbed her of some essential part of herself, some part that she held in reserve even from those closest to her. There was hardly a time when we were not eating or sleeping or working together, and so we were expected to give quarter in this regard. She loathed my staring so greatly that she would work to catch me at it, and if I could not look away before she turned to me, she would use Iron Bessie on my back and legs until her wrist gave out. And as her wrists were as strong as any man's, this took some time. But in this way, I came to witness so much that others did not see. Or did not wish to see.

It was not defiance only that made me study her so, although our cat-and-mouse games did become a kind of battle. It was also because she, with a deliberation bordering on the unseemly, set herself apart from what a woman should be and was as surprising as a flood or a brush fire. She had a will, and a demeanor, as forceful as a church deacon's. The passage of time, and layer upon layer of misfortune, had only worked to stiffen the fabric of her being. At first glance, one might perceive a comely woman of some intelligence, not young, but neither yet old. And her face, when not animated by speech or untempered passions, seemed serene. But Martha Carrier was like a deep pond, the surface of which was placid enough but deeply cold to the touch and which was filled beneath the surface with sharp rocks and treacherous choke roots. And she had a tongue, the sharpness of which would gut a man as quick as a Gloucester fisherman could clean a lamprey eel. I know I was not alone in my family, or amongst our neighbors, in fervently praying for a beating rather than having to endure the lacerations of her speech.

As our wagon moved slowly past fields covered in deep drifts of encrusted snow, I looked expectantly about for farm houses or, better still, the sight of a garrison outpost or a gallows hill with the remains of ropes still dangling from broad-limbed oaks where the hangman had cut down the bodies. We speculated about how long the bodies would be left on the rope before public decency required them to be removed. In years to come children of a tender age would be kept away from the hangings, flailings, and public tortures of the honorable courts of New England. But I was yet in my innocence and thought such necessary instructions to be no more unpleasant than wringing the head from a chicken's neck. I had, from time to time, seen men and women in the stocks, and it had been great sport for my brothers and me to throw bits of refuse at their captive heads.

Crossing over the Shawshin River bridge, we entered the Boston Way Road, which would lead us north to Andover. We passed the houses of our new neighbors, the Osgoods, the Ballards, and the Chandlers, all to the west of us. And there, just ahead to the east, was the town's southern garrison. The garrison was a stout two-storied house with provisions and ammunition kept on the second floor. The stockades were of great necessity, as there were still violent Indian raids in the surrounds. Only the year before had there been a deadly raid on Dover. Twenty-three were killed. Twenty-nine children were captured to be kept or traded back to their families. We hailed the guard, but as the windows were frosted, the man posted on the lookout did not see us and so he did not raise his hand to us as we passed by.

Just north of the garrison, set off from the main road, was my grandmother's house. It was smaller than I had remembered and more homely, with a steeply pitched roof and an iron-cladded door. But when the door opened and Richard came to greet us, I remembered well the old woman who followed him out. It had been two years or more since our last visit. Her bones did not like to travel to Billerica by cart, she had said. And she told my mother she would not imperil her daughter's immortal soul by having us travel to Andover until my parents had started going to the meeting house on each and every Sabbath. We could be captured and killed by Indians on the way, or waylaid by path robbers, or fall into a sinkhole and drown, she had said. And then would our souls be lost forever. The years of separation from Grandmother were testament in equal parts to my mother's obstinacy and her great dislike for sitting in a pew.

The old lady lifted Hannah at once from my mother and welcomed us into a house warmed by a great fire and the smell of a cooking pot, reminding us that we had eaten only a few hard biscuits at dawn. I walked through the house, sucking my stinging fingers, looking at the things my grandfather had made. He had died some years before I was born and so I had never met him, though I had heard Richard say he was so alike my mother that bringing them together was like throwing oil onto a burning brand. The house had one common room with a hearth, a table hand-rubbed and smelling of beeswax, butter, and ashes, a few rush chairs, and one fine carved sidepiece for storing plates. I ran my fingers lightly over the designs, wondering at the cunning workmanship. Our house in Billerica had only benches and a rude trestle table with no pretty patterns to please the eye or the hand. The Andover house had one small bedchamber off the main room and a stairway that led up to a garret room filled with a lifetime of crates and jars and wooden trunks.

My parents, with Hannah, were given Grandmother's room and bed, while she took a cot next to the hearth in the common room. Andrew, Tom, and I would sleep in the garret, while Richard would have to make his rest with the ox and the horse in the barn close behind the house. He could stand the cold better than most, and Mother said it was because his inner heat was not diminished by an open mouth and a loose tongue. He was handed most of the blankets, as he would have no way of making a useful fire in the hay. Grandmother found for the rest of us a few old relics of batting for our covers against the freezing air.

The first night, the house was filled with the sounds of the walls settling against the layering snow and the warm animal smells of my brothers. I was used to sleeping in an alcove with Hannah at my chest as a warming stone. I lay on my pallet shivering in the cold, and when I closed my eyes I could yet feel the movement of the wagon. The straw worked its way out of the ticking and pricked the skin on my back, making me restless. There was no candle to light our room, and I could not see where my brothers lay sleeping only a few feet away. At long last a shaft of moonlight worked its way in between the boards at the window, and the long-necked jars made shadows of headless ghost-soldiers on the rough timbers, marching as though in battle with the moon shafts traveling across the walls. I threw off the batting and crawled across the splintered planks, feeling along with my hands until I reached my brothers' pallet and crawled in close to Tom. I was too old to be sleeping with my brothers and would be punished in the morning if caught, but I pressed myself close to his huddled form and, taking in his good warmth, closed my eyes.

WHEN I WOKE in the morning I was alone, my brothers risen, the objects scattered about the room looking gray and much used. I dressed quickly in the aching cold, my fingers as unbending as sausages. I crept down the stairs and heard the sound of Father's voice vibrating through the common room. The smell of cooking meat made my belly cramp but I crouched low on the stairs so I could see while not being seen, and listened. I heard him say "... it is a matter of conscience. And let us leave it at that."

Grandmother paused for a moment and, laying her hand on his shoulder, replied, "Thomas, I know of your differences with the parson. But this is not Billerica. It is Andover. And the Reverend Barnard will not brook absence from prayer. You must go today in good faith to the selectmen, before the Sabbath, and give your oath of fidelity to the town if you are to stay. Tomorrow, on the Sabbath, you must come with me to the meetinghouse for service. If you do not, you may be turned out. There is much conflict with newcomers laying claim to land. There are jealousies and resentments here enough to fill a well. If you stay long enough, you will see."

He looked into the fire, struggling to resolve the conflict within - between compliance to the laws of the meeting house and the desire to be left entirely to his own devices. I was very young but even I knew he was not greatly liked in Billerica. He was too solitary, too imposing in his unyielding beliefs in what was fair and what was not. And there was always whispered gossip of a past life, supposedly unlawful but never precisely named, that created a space for solitude. Last year Father had been fined 20 pence for arguing with a neighbor over property lines. His size, his great strength, and his reputation caused the neighbor to give way in the dispute, allowing Father to plant the boundary stakes where he wanted them despite the fine.

"Won't you do this for your wife and children?" she asked gently.

Bowing his head to his breakfast, he said, "For you and for my children I will do as you ask. As for my wife, you must ask her yourself. She has a great dislike for the Minister Barnard and coming from me it would be taken very badly."

FOR ALL GRANDMOTHER was soft and gentle, she was also persuasive, and like water wearing down rock she worked on Mother until she agreed to attend services on the morrow. Mother said under her breath, "I'd rather eat stones." But she brought out her good linen collar to be washed nonetheless. Richard and Andrew would leave with Father that very morning for the north end of Andover. They would put their mark on the town register and pledge faith to defend it from all attackers, promising to pay tithes in good time to its ministers. I pinched Andrew's arm hard and made him swear an oath that he would repeat everything he would see and hear. Tom and I were to be left behind with Mother for the cooking and gathering of firewood. Grandmother said that a respectful visit should also be made to the Reverend Francis Dane, who lived directly across from the meeting house. He had been pastor in North Andover for over forty years and was greatly loved. He was to have given way in his ministry years ago to the Reverend Barnard but, like a good shepherd, he sensed there was enough wolf in the younger man to warrant his continued protecting presence. The two men grudgingly shared the pulpit, and their sermonizing, every other week or so. I stood at the door and watched the cart's progress as far as the bend in the road, until they were swallowed behind mountainous drifts of snow.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent Copyright © 2008 by Kathleen Kent. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 228 Customer Reviews
  • 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 February 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    interesting glimpse into a shameful part of american history

    the book is clearly about the daughter of a woman who is tried as a witch at the salem witch trials, yet you will be almost through with the book before we even get to this part of the story. the author spends the early parts of the book drawing a picture for the reader of the difficult times the settlers had adjusting to america, the jealousies and political alliances. it doesn't take long to pull the reader into this drama.

    this is an interesting, refreshing perspective of a part of history i knew little about. i recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

    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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    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!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Realistic views

    I have read a handful of books lately about the witches/Salem Witch Trials and have found this one to be the most realistic. It really put it all into perspective about how it must have been to be alive during this time and to be accused. This was the first book I've read that dealt with what it must have been like to be a prisoner and the horrific conditions. Very interesting characters that keep you wanting to know more and hope it ends differently then history tells us. A real eye opener. I highly recommend this anyone interested in the history of this subject.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Powerful emotional story

    Never has a book given me so many strong emotions as this one. It's amazing how mass hysteria can produce such irrational, mind baffling ideas that make the impossible become reality. I just couldn't believe they could get away with accusing these innocent people (even children) with the most ridiculous charges. I could actually feel myself get angry at such injustices. Especially towards Sarah and her mother. It made me want to go in there and give everybody a good slap and wake up call. Nevertheless, I thought the book was a good read. A book that stirs such emotions is definitely worth a read. There was a point in the book (the trial part) where it literally made my blood boil and I had to set it down a couple of times, to me, that just means the book was good. Really good.

    The characters in the book were very well written. I loved the relationship between Sarah and her mother. Although strained, and even cold, it's a lot like the mother-daughter relationships today. When Sarah comes to terms with her mother, it's sad and quite possibly filled with regrets but it changes Sarah from a naive young girl to a mature one, who now sees the world in a very different way. I also thought her relationship with her father was interesting as well and it's an eye opener when she realizes that her parents are loving and caring even if they don't display it openly. I really did like reading this through Sarah's point of view. It's amazing and I really enjoyed her character development. I also liked Martha (Sarah's mother) as well. She was so strong willed and strong minded, she was an extremely admirable woman and her actions while in jail were extremely brave.

    This book also got me to hate certain characters far more than usual. Mercy and her little sidekick Phoebe were absolutely hateful and are just as bad as present day bullies at school. Mercy really got to me though, if it wasn't for her, Sarah's life might have been different. Argh. Horrible hateful Mercy!

    The only real complaint I have is the 'red book' mentioned. It is given to Sarah yet the contents within the book were never revealed. That was a bit of a disappointment for me, I was curious and wanting to know what secrets it might have, and to have it never discussed made the ending lacking. Also, the focus on Sarah's moments in prison were a little too long winded and dragged for a bit. It could have been slightly shorter.

    Pick this book up and be ready for the emotional ride. The book is well written and generates a lot of feeling from the reader. Don't expect any happy feelings from this one though. It covers tragic events and is an eye opener on how mass hysteria can run amok, and how easily people (even family) can turn against one another.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 2, 2011

    Creates disturbing energy

    This is the sort of book that is disturbing to read, leaves you with raw emotions, and connects you to everyone in our history who has ever been tortured and abused. It makes you think, 'How can this happen,' and then makes you afraid that it can happen again. It was moving and historically insigntful, no matter how much you think you know about that period of time.

    When you put this book down you find yourself desparately searching for something lighter, something that makes you believe again in human nature and humanity.

    Higly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    great story....

    great story based on true historical fact. the only reason i did not rate this book 5 stars is because i had hoped there would be more details revealed about sarah's father. i would recommend this book to a friend and read another by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2010

    Not good

    We chose this as our book club book and I had high hopes because of the topic, but it was not good. The author spends too much time with detail. It would take like two pages to tell us the room smelled bad. The writting did not flow well and it was anticlimactic. I would not recommend this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    One Book At A Time

    I have to be honest in saying the book was a little different for me. I think it's because you know what is coming. I kept thinking it was slow because I wanted it to get to the part were the panic has set in and people are being accused left and right. Man that makes me sound like I crave the gruesome. But, at the same time as thinking the story was slow, I would realize I was reading huge chunks of it in the blink of an eye. I guess I was thinking the story focused more on the witch trials, when that's not the case. It's about family and how they stand together during extreme circumstances. It's also about a very interesting relationship between a mother and a daughter and how that changes during this time. You do eventually get a sense of what it was like for those who stood accused of witchcraft, but it's such a small part of the story. It is amazing what this family went through. You get the sense that they are even stronger than what they were before such an ordeal. It left me thinking about it even after I read the last page.

    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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