Review: The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

My neighborhood book club recently selected “The Heretic’s Daughter” for reading (or “HERetic’s Daughter”, as the book indicates). It tells the story of Martha Carrier, victim of the Salem Witch trials, through the eyes of her daughter, Sarah. This was a compelling read, and a remarkable one since Kent is a descendant of Carrier and this is her first novel. Kent’s ability to portray the starkness of life in New England in the late 1600’s is extraordinary. Her descriptions of winter in Massachusetts (where, by the way, I live) left me feeling cold; her passages of the deplorable Salem jail conditions left me squirming. Throughout the story I held hope that the spirit and strength of the protagonist, Sarah, would see her through, even as I knew what the outcome would be for her mother.

I have read many accounts of the Salem Witch Trials and visited Salem several times. Each time I encounter the story, I once again marvel at how this horrible and terrible chapter in our nation’s history occurred. How could this have happened – accusing innocent people of witchcraft and getting them condemned to death – and could something like this happen again? Sadly, when one considers that the trials were about persecuting people who were different or disliked (often strong-minded and outspoken women), the answer is that yes, these atrocities do continue to happen in different forms today.

I enjoyed this book, even though it was stark and somewhat disturbing. The end left me with hope and with respect for the strength of Sarah Carrier and her mother. I thought the length was perfect – 332 pages – as it was not a “light” read. The characters were well-developed and the story moved well.

I give this book 4 stars — “I really liked it alot”. I purchased this book as I thought it’d be one I’d like to keep and lend.

Let me know what you think!

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