The Heretic’s Daughter
With The Heretic’s Daughter, debut author Kathleen Kent has taken the tragic story of Martha Carrier, a victim of the witch trials of Salem Village in 1692, and breathed life into the events surrounding this era of hysteria. The fact that Carrier is actually Kent’s ancestress adds drama to an already frightening and unbelievable tale.
Told through the eyes of Martha’s young daughter, Sarah, the book begins with several chapters of background-building that gives insight into the times and the family’s reputation in the area. Martha is a strong-willed woman who has managed to offend several members of the community, and Sarah watches in disbelief as, once accused, Martha refuses to do anything to save herself, believing that right will win out in the end. As the horror continues, even Sarah and her brothers are accused of witchcraft and are thrown into jail. Sarah discovers that she will have to make hard decisions that will either keep her alive or send her to the gallows. Kent builds the story and leads us to the sad, bitter ending, showing how mass hysteria feeds itself.
Once the story gets past the initial background-setting pages, The Heretic’s Daughter gains momentum, but I found the first part a tad tedious. As told through the experiences of young Sarah, this book seemed more young adult in tone and would likely appeal to teens interested in the period. I am also hoping that the final published copy will include an author’s note that gives more information about how Kent researched and developed the story. Overall The Heretic’s Daughter is indeed a good read, and highlights a truly dreadful time in history.