Thursday, November 17, 2016

REVIEW: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter
by Kathleen Kent

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co
Page Count: 356
Release Date: September 3, 2008
Format: Kindle

How got: personal buy via Amazon

First attention getter: time period; subject matter


From GoodReads:

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.

Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

Before Heretic’s Daughter, I've never read Kathleen Kent. Boy was I missing out! This author knows how to combine family dynamics, characterizations, and engrossing storytelling to create one of the best works I've read all year. Let's just say, she'll be an author I'm keeping an eye out for in future.

With my recent witch kick I've been on lately, this book was a natural selection. As the Salem Witch Trials were the biggest example of witch hunts in America, works exploring this historical event are more plentiful than I originally expected. I'm glad this title was the one I chose to read.

Kathleen Kent’s novel is an intimate tale of a dysfunctional family caught up in an epic and tragic series of events, ultimately leading to both loss and personal growth. I like how this author is able to tell both the intimate details of how the witch craze affected different family members and also detail the stepping stones of the craze itself. The reader gets to see how the ball got rolling from a phrase tossed out in anger or a bad look turns into an accusation of witchcraft, resulting in loss of property and life.

It didn't pay to have an angry or straightforward personality in Puritan Salem. Unfortunately, Martha Carrier had such a one. Undiplomatic, tactless, and not suffering fools lightly are all adjectives that can describe her. Yet, for all of that, her honor, strength, and care for her family shape all her actions throughout this difficult time. I grew to respect her and ultimately to love her, despite cringing at some of her words to her neighbors.

At first, I didn't like the main speaker of the story, Sarah. Historically, I know she testified against her mother and others, along with her brothers. So going into the book, I was prepared to dislike her. However, as the story progressed and I grew to know the Carrier family more, I started to understand why Sarah did what she did and her inner thoughts on her actions. It takes a gifted writer to make me like and empathize with a character I started out disliking. As I finished the book, my heart went out to Sarah, and I felt all the tragedies of her family right along with her.

Given the events of the Salem Witch Trials and the fates of people caught up in the craze, this subject matter is a given for high emotional stress and content. Kent's take on the story is no exception. I haven't felt as much as I did reading this book in a while. As the fates of the Carrier family carried itself out and each tragic event happened, I felt myself more and more tied up with the different characters and their pain. Let's just say that by the time this book ended, I was emotionally wrung out. I had to go read a fluffy historical romance afterwards to recuperate. LOL

High emotions, humanized characters, and a gripping tale all make for a suspenseful read. Even though the reader knows what's going to happen historically, this book takes you on a journey and keeps you enthralled by the sheer power of the writing. I was so gripped by the Carrier family’s story that I immediately started the prequel, along with the fluffy romance used for recuperation. If you're going to read any historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials, read this one. While I can't say I am an expert on the subject matter and wide read, I still think this work stands above the rest. Definitely check it out!

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