The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Martha Carrier was hanged on August 19th 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather than joining the ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby spared execution. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and wilful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live.In this startling novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover, near Salem. Her father is a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical but with a secret history. Her mother is a herbalist, tough but loving, and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other, Sarah and her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that Martha understands her daughter like no other. When Martha is accused of witchcraft, and the whisperings in the community escalate, she makes her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case is taken to court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves, the vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family, along with other innocents, are starved and deprived of any decency, battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer willpower their mother has taught them.
This is the first Kathleen Kent novel I have read and the first book sent during the Salem Witch Trials – and I have to say I was pleased on both fronts. This book follows Sarah, a girl whose mother is hanged because people believe she is a witch. Girls in the town point and accuse and the citizens fates are decided. Her family face all sorts of hardships and find themselves cooped up in prison too. By using what their mother has taught them they have to learn how to depend on each other and survive.
I really enjoyed this book however I did find that it had a slow beginning. Once I got halfway through I started to really enjoy it and I felt the pace picked up. Kent was descriptive and I found the way she described the life, the fear and the horror of the prisons fascinating – although harrowing too. She lit my imagination and I felt I was there too, also experiencing the suffering.
I liked Kent’s characters. I admired Sarah’s mother Martha, who was strong until the end. She protected her family, even if that meant she faced death. I found Sarah an interesting read – it seemed she needed someone to cling onto, such as her cousin Margaret, but I liked how her character developed and the way her and her older brother joined together and survived.
I found this a harrowing read. I didn’t have any problems with the history – in fact this has opened the doors to this era for me and now I hope to read more from this genre. I think Kent dealt with the issues at hand well and I was fascinated to discover this is her family’s story – passed down through generations. Once I got past the slow start this story opened up and pulled me in and I really enjoyed it.