Monday, January 31, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is written with an interesting perspective.  It is a historical fiction novel (right up my alley!) that takes place during the Salem Witch Trials.  The story is told through the daughter, Sarah, of Martha Carrier.

The book begins with a letter written in 1752 from Sarah to her granddaughter.  In the letter she explains that included with the letter is "my own written history", and thus, the book begins.  The story starts in 1690 when the Carrier family is moving from Billerica to neighboring Andover to live with Martha's mother.  Smallpox is prevalent in the area and any new visitors or settlers to the area are not welcome, due to the fear of people bringing smallpox to the community.  So right from the beginning, the Carrier's are not made welcome.  Soon, smallpox does arrive, and Sarah and her baby sister are sent back to Billerica to Martha's sister's family in hopes that the disease will not reach them.

Sarah's family is interesting.  Her mother, Martha, is not very affectionate with the children and Sarah finds that she loves living with Martha's sister's family, where much affection is shown, and she has a cousin, Margaret,  that Sarah becomes very close to.  Sarah's father, Thomas Carrier, is a mystery to Sarah.  He is a giant of a man, who seems to have a mysterious, forbidden past.  Sarah has two older brothers, along with her baby sister.

After Sarah and her sister had been away for a few months, they were returned home to the family.  Sarah was not happy about leaving her aunt's family, especially Margaret.

Over the next year, hysteria begins to rear up, as young girls begin accusing others of being witches.  By 1692, Martha is accused of being a witch and is taken away from the family's home and put in prison. Shortly before Martha is taken away, she tells Sarah what is happening and directs Sarah to commit heresy.  As Martha predicted, soon Martha's children are also accused and Sarah and her brothers are also put in prison, accused of witchery.

This was a fascinating story, based on true facts.  Interestingly, the author of the book is a direct descendant of Martha Carrier.

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