Title: The Heretic's Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Edition: Back Bay Books, 2009 (345 pages)
From the Cover:
In 1752, Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter, revealing the secret she has closely guarded for six decades. Her story begins a little more than a year before the Salem witch trials, when she and her family arrive in a New England community already gripped by superstition and fear. Hysteria escalates as neighbour is pitted against neighbour, friend against friend, until more than two hundred men, women, and children are swept into prison - Sarah's mother, Martha Carrier, among them. In an attempt to protect her children, Martha asks Sarah to commit an act of heresy - a lie that will most surely condemn Martha even as it will save her daughter.
The Heretic's Daughter is written from the perspective of a 9 year old, Sarah Carrier Chapman. Sarah is the third child of Thomas Carrier and Martha Allen. Sarah's mother, Martha was a strong-willed woman who had a certain contempt for the men of church. In December 1690, Sarah and her family travelled by cart from Billerica to neighbouring Andover, Massachusetts in a desperate attempt to escape the pox that had plagued their hometown. Little did they know that they had brought the disease with them. This did not sit too well with the people of Andover. In a time where superstition was rife and independent women were feared, the Carrier family suddenly found themselves under extreme scrutiny.
Martha Carrier was later accused of witchcraft and was thrown into jail with her two sons and daughter, Sarah. The first half of the book focused on the characters within the Carrier family, whilst the second half was an account of the family's life in imprisonment and the ensuing court trials. It is a truly heart-wrenching tale that provided a realistic impression of what really happened to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials - a point that was a real eye-opener for me since I know very little about the subject.
What I loved most about this book was Martha Carrier's resolve. Despite the perilous situation she was in, Martha continued to show strength and dignity all the way to her death. She was a source of strength for her husband and children, especially little Sarah.
This is a gripping family saga of despair, family love and one woman's refusal to bow down to the powers that be. A great read and highly recommended, especially to those who wish to know more about the Salem Witch Trials.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier. The Heretic's Daughter was written based on family stories passed on from her grandmother and mother, as well as historical facts of the Salem Witch Trials.