Monday, August 1, 2011

Julie's Review: The Heretic's Daughter

The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel Summary: Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.

Review: I'm not obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials but it is a period in history that I do find intriguing. What interests me the most though is the psychological aspect of the hysteria instead of the hangings themselves. A good friend of mine and avid reader recommended The Heretic's Daughter, so I added it to my huge pile of books.

While at times I found the book to be mired in the details, overall I really liked this account of the effects of the trials on families. The story is told from the point of view of Sarah Carrier, Martha and Thomas Carrier's eldest daughter. She is a bright, precocious kid when we are introduced to her. She doesn't understand her mother and doesn't really know her father that well. When small pox consumes her family, Sarah and her sister Hannah are taken to live with her Aunt Mary and her family. Sarah is taken back by the difference in their families. She feels that Aunt Mary is more loving than her mother and her Uncle is a great storyteller at night by the fire.

Sarah also begins to bond with her cousin Margaret and they become so close that Sarah is devastated when she is retrieved by her father to come home. Sarah knows that she won't see her cousin again because of the tension between the two families.

When Sarah arrives home she is angry with her mother for ripping her away from her cousin. She is bitter and stubborn. Once she moves back home this is where the story starts to pick up. The Carrier's have always been outsiders when it comes to living in Andover but ever since the outbreak of small pox, they are treated even worse. They also take in a young girl to help them with the household chores but she only wants to get in the family way with Sarah's oldest brother Richard. When Martha kicks the young lady out of her house and she is given another job at the local inn.

As soon as the word spreads about women being accused of being witches in Salem, it is only a matter of time before the hysteria reaches Andover. Martha is accused of being a witch because of things that she's said to neighbors in the past that has eventually caused them strife. She had said these things out of anger for their disregard of her property. They believe the things she said to them were curses. Nowadays we say these things are coincidences.

What impacted me the most while reading this book was the relationship that Sarah develops with her father while her mother is in jail waiting trial. She begins to understand who he is as a person and what his responsibilities are in the family. She begins to understand her mother a bit better and perhaps herself as well. We watch Sarah grow up during this period of time and start to take responsibility for her family.

I enjoyed how Ms. Kent wrapped up the story. We got a glimpse into Sarah's life as an adult woman, married with her own kids and her own life but yet never forgetting the past.

I loved the fact that Ms. Kent drew from her own family lore, they are descendants of the Carrier's (Martha's side), weaved in the historical accounts and then put it all in a rather fixating fictional story.

If you are at all interested in the Salem Witch Trials, then this personal account in fictional verse would be a good pick for you.

At some point I will pick up Ms. Kent's 2nd novel The Wolves of Andover because I am intrigued by Thomas Carrier's colored past.

Final Take: 3.75/5



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