natalie.schoppe, March 28, 2010 (view all comments by natalie.schoppe)
I agree, this is an excellent novel! I didn't realize until now that this was her first one. The characters are so real I felt like I had a connection to each one! I can't wait to read her next book!
katknit, January 12, 2009 (view all comments by katknit)
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.
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Wendy Robards, September 11, 2008 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
The Salem witch trials of 1692, fueled by superstition and the inflammatory writings of Cotton Mather, ended with the deaths of 20 people and the imprisonment of dozens of others - mostly women and children. One of the hanged women was Martha Carrier, a distant relative of author Kathleen Kent. The Heretic’s Daughter is a novel based on this historical figure and the events surrounding the Salem witch trials. Narrated by Martha’s eldest daughter - 10 year old Sarah - the novel is a powerful and disturbing look at how fear and superstition devastated one family.
The novel begins in December 1690 with the Carrier family’s move from Billerica, Massachusetts to Andover. Unbeknownst to them, they bring with them a microscopic demon - smallpox. Later, when the family sickens, they will be blamed for the deaths of thirteen people in the Andover area - an accusation which later plays a role in the trial of Martha Carrier.
Sarah’s relationship with her mother is a centerpiece of the novel. Kent skillfully shows the tension between mother and daughter and the ambivalence which characterizes their relationship. As the story unfolds, and Martha is faced with the unthinkable, Sarah realizes she must do something no daughter should be asked to do: testify against her mother to save her own life and the lives of her brothers.
'I started to shake my head no, but a terrible idea was forming in the back of my mind and my eyes must have widened, so that Mother nodded her head grimly and said, “When they cannot make me confess they will come to my family and it will not matter that you are a child. There are children in Salem Town jail even now.” She saw the look in my eyes and knelt in front of me, holding me tight in her arms.
“If they come for you, you must tell them anything they want to hear to save yourself. And you must tell Richard and Andrew and Tom to do the same.” -From The Heretic’s Daughter, page 177-'
Kent does not spare her readers the horror which faced children as young as 4 years old during this terrible time in history. She weaves a tale of almost unimaginable terror. Richly atmospheric and narrated by the unforgettable voice of Sarah, this novel refuses to be laid aside. In Kent’s skilled hands, Martha is portrayed as a difficult yet courageous woman…a woman who refused to lie to save her own life, but instead stood before a merciless courtroom and scoffed at the fragile “evidence” which named her a witch.
Readers will be touched by Sarah who must grow up before her time and bear witness to the hysteria which costs her mother her life.
Highly recommended, especially for historical fiction lovers.
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Little Brown and Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"A family's conflict becomes a battle for life and death in this gripping and original first novel based on family history from a descendant of a condemned Salem witch. After a bout of smallpox, 10-year-old Sarah Carrier resumes life with her mother on their family farm in Andover, Mass., dimly aware of a festering dispute between her mother, Martha, and her uncle about the plot of land where they live. The fight takes on a terrifying dimension when reports of supernatural activity in nearby Salem give way to mass hysteria, and Sarah's uncle is the first person to point the finger at Martha. Soon, neighbors struggling to eke out a living and a former indentured servant step forward to name Martha as the source of their woes. Sarah is forced to shoulder an even heavier burden as her mother and brothers are taken to prison to face a jury of young women who claim to have felt their bewitching presence. 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. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Library Journal,
"Amidst the painful details of jail and persecution, deep-seated suspicion and familial betrayal, it is [a] powerful act of love that crowns the book."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[H]istorical fiction with a feminist perspective."
by USA Today,
"Kent tells a heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice."
by Chelsea Cain, New York times,
"[A] powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature."
by Dallas Morning News,
"Ms. Kent brings a gentle decency to her portrait of this nasty episode in American life."
by Christian Science Monitor,
"[An] eminently readable novel, and a tribute to a woman who held steadfastly to the courage of her convictions."
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