Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter (Kathleen Kent)

When someone mentions the witch trials to an American, they most often think of Salem. However, trials happened in the towns around Salem as well. The Heretic's Daugter is the heartbreaking story of an Andover, Massachusetts family that was unjustly destroyed during that horrible time in American history. Interestingly enough, Kathleen Kent is a descendant of Martha Carrier, one of the characters in this work of historical fiction.

While reading this, I found myself shaking my head at the trivial things that we worry about in this day and age. If a car cuts us off or we break a freshly manicured fingernail, it ruins our day. What if we had smallpox and the plague to deal with? Or being unjustly accused and held in absolutely deplorable conditions with the probability of being hanged?

The members of the Carrier family have a lot to deal with from the very beginning when they move to Andover. Horrible illness runs through the family, resulting in a death, brain damage, and the children being forced to move to a distant relative's home. Upon returning, the main character, Sarah (Martha's daughter) finds herself constantly at odds with her stern mother. The eventual reconciliation and understanding of each other is as much a part of this novel as the inevitable witch trials. Kent effortlessly weaves some of the main historical figures of the trials throughout, from Cotton Mather to Tituba.

The fact that Kent has this in her history makes The Heretic's Daughter even more compelling. I look forward to reading Kent's latest, which is a prequel focusing on Martha Carrier's childhood.