The Hereticís Daughter (2009)

by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent is a descendant of Martha Carrier, who was executed during the infamous witch trials of Salem and nearby Massachusetts towns. Kent combined her familyís lore with extensive research to write a gripping historical novel about the tragedyís effects on a family.

The tale is told by Sarah, the fourth child of Thomas and Martha Carrier, six decades after the events of 1692. Her story begins with the Carriers moving from Billerica to Andover, Massachusetts, to escape smallpox. They unwittingly bring the disease with them, thus starting out on the wrong foot with the community. Thomas is aloof. Sharp-tongued Martha finds fault with her neighbors. By the time hysteria grows about supposed witchery, Martha is a likely target of accusations.

Kentís plot builds slowly, with the first half of the book establishing the context. Smallpox, Indian raids, harsh winters, and hard living conditions fed unease in colonial New England, and the Puritans were willing to see the devilís doing in every misfortune.

Sarah and her three brothers, all accused of witchcraft, were locked up along with their mother and stayed in jail months after Marthaís hanging. It was there that Sarah came to appreciate her ďunfeelingĒ mother as a woman of integrity and courage who loved her children. Martha would not lie to save herself but told her children to accuse her to save themselves.

Kent has done a fine job of showing the human cost of an American atrocity.


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