The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent - Book Review

Researched with the mind of a skilled genealogist, told with the words of a gifted storyteller and written with a magical pen, The Heretic's Daughter is a masterful first person account of the life of Sarah Carrier, daughter to Martha Carrier: witch. Upon completion of the novel I was compelled to conduct some research of my own. Surely, Sarah must have been real.

Sarah is real in voice and pain, as real as her having been born to a condemned witch can be proven. You can google her, and especially her family history, you’ll find tons of websites, but none will tell you Sarah’s tale. Only this novel imagines her voice and imagines it so well. The Heretic's Daughter gives the Salem Witch Trials the voice of a child.

In some ways the story is Sarah’s coming of age tale, told in the worst sense, where the person is forced through the most difficult of trials in order to reach the telling point. Those google searches allow us the knowledge that Sarah survived and had descendants. The author, first-time novelist Kathleen Kent, is herself a descendant, making the telling all the more sweet.

The story could easily fall into a depressing mode, but the proud resiliency of Martha Carrier keeps her ancestors in check. Sarah’s voice is magical, almost falling into the magical realism category. Old New England is a place where omens abound, herbal remedies are the drugs and superstition is the norm. The historical context is a background setting, not a plot device.

Today we view the Salem Witch Trials as a sort of pop-entertainment history. The Heretic's Daughter brings that simplified mindset to its knees. I highly recommend The Heretic's Daughter to lovers of historical fiction, especially those with an interest in the Salem Witch Trials. I would also recommend this as supplemental material for high school students studying the trials or reading The Crucible or The House of the Seven Gables

Read from an advance copy.
Available September 2008
Preorder The Heretic's Daughter Here

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