The Heretic’s Daughter By Kathleen Kent

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.

This was a book I was so excited to get into.  I had heard so many good things about it and the topic of the Salem Witch Trials was one I  was interested in knowing more about.  It surprised me when I struggled through the first half of the book.  It was heavily filled with information about life in the 1600’s.  The action and information about the trials took so long to get to that I found myself wanting to put the book down and be done with it.

Once I made it through the first half and the information started to come out about Martha Carrier the book picked up significantly.  I was shocked and saddened how the trials came to be.  The evidence, or lack there of… really drove the story home for me.  The women that died during this trial was heartbreaking and the knowledge I was hoping to gain from this book about the trials was slow coming, but eventually made its appearance.

The Salem Witch Trials prior to this book were just something I had heard of but I really had no idea.  What a sad time in our history.

Martha Carrier

Calling her a “rampant hag” and the “Queen of Hell,” the Reverend Cotton Mather harbored no doubts that Martha Carrier deserved to be executed as a witch during the Salem outbreak on August 19, 1692. The Salem documents themselves, however, reveal that her crime was not witchcraft but an independence of mind and an unsubmissive character. A daughter of one of the founding families of Andover, Martha married a young Welsh servant, Thomas Carrier, in 1674, by whom she had four children. The Salem accusation against Martha came only two years after the selectmen of Andover blamed a smallpox epidemic on her witchcraft. Although historians have blamed her accusation on causes ranging from a conspiracy against Andover’s proprietary families to reaction against threats to patriarchal inheritance, her contentious spirit and the earlier charge of witchcraft seem the most plausible explanation.

Interview with Kathleen Kent

My book club reviewed this book for our January selection.  At the time of the review I had not finished the book having struggled with the first half.  After listening to the Bookies talk about what was yet to come in the book and how much they had learned about the Salem Witch Trials I went home form the meeting and finished the book.  They were right the second half of the book did pick up and got to the meet of the story that I was hoping for.  Over all our book club found this book to be an average read scoring a 3.4 on our scale of 1 – 5.

This book is counted in the following Challenges:

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Amazon Review

This review copy was sent to me from Hachette Book Group

26 thoughts on “The Heretic’s Daughter By Kathleen Kent

  1. I have so many books to read, that I may just postpone this one indefinitely. I struggled to connect with the characters and the topic in the pages I did read, and my interest had not picked up by the time I stopped.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I struggled with the first half of this book as well. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
    The second half was better though. I think I spend though the first half because I wanted to get to the trials and such. My review posts tomorrow I think.

    1. I thought it would flow much faster Page. I think maybe that a lot of books i have read lately have started out with big action… I was surprised to have to wait for it get into that.

  3. I read this on the way home at Christmas-I really enjoyed the story-I was surprised to find out that the author was a late relative of Martha. I thought it was a well told story.

    1. Esme – I remember you saying how wonderful it was, and you are not the only one – some said it was the best book they read last year!

      I too was interested in the fact that Kathleen was a relative of Martha Carrier. I heard there will be another book.

  4. I was just looking at this one the other day at my library. I’ve always been intrigued by the Salem Witch trials. If I do read it I will be sure to keep in mind that the first half is really laying out the history!! Thanks for the great review!

  5. Interesting…this was one of my favorite books read last year, and I loved it right from the beginning, as did most of my book group. It’s interesting to me that both you and other members of your book group felt that it was slow at first. Looks like a similar range of opinion at amazon – I clicked on yes on your amazon review!


    1. Sue it was just the weirdest thing… I had hear such great things about the book and promoted it two months to my book club club before it won the vote. I kept thinking that maybe it was just me – that I was too tired or something… but my club felt the same. I didnt not like it, just found it slower than anticipated. I will be reading her next book and look forward to what she has to say.

  6. Hi,

    I came across your post randomly. I too found half the book slow in developing its climax, but I understand why. It was more or less to give us an idea of Puritan life during that time.


  7. Thought I had commented on this book, but it must have been on another site where it was reviewed. The same comment was made about it being a bit slow in the beginning, but worth sticking with. This sounds like the type of book I would like. I am a fact junkie, so the first half wouldn’t bother me. Unfortunately, there are many instances in history where women were punished for being outspoken and independent.

    1. I thnk that is what got to me most about this book Pat. The fact that these women were nothing but opinionated strong willed women. I never knew that before . I thought they had more to go – practicing witchcraft or something.

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