Monday, July 14, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter


This past April I reviewed Bound, and wrote that what I appreciated most about historical fiction was learning what life was like for everyday people. There is something else that makes good historical fiction that didn't apply to Bound necessarily, but does apply to The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. The Heretic's Daughter takes place during the time of the Salem Witch Trials, but instead of being just a book about this horrific period in American history, with the characters a secondary thought, this is a book about a family. A family with a home and a farm, problems and idiosyncrasies ,that happens to live during the time of the Salem Witch Trials and happens to become caught up in this horror.

The Heretic's Daughter is told from the point of view of Sarah Carrier, a young girl who, like many young girls, does not always understand or feel close to her mother, Martha. Through Sarah, we learn about New England in the 1690's, what everyday life was for her, what the social situation was at that time, and how it might feel to not be quite like everyone else. Not until more than halfway through the novel does the situation in Salem affect the Carrier family, when Martha is accused of being a witch. All eyes are on the rest of the Carrier family and Sarah comes to understand and respect her mother anew. The reader knows at the outset how this story will end, yet I still found myself wishing for a different outcome. It is hard to imagine a time when these events could have taken place, when innocent people were murdered, all because some young girls made up stories. I had the added benefit when reading this book of having actually visited Salem, which I did about 8-10 years ago. I have seen the town, taken the tour, and viewed the unimaginably small recreated jail cells there. As I read this book, I could imagine in my mind where Sarah and Martha were and what they suffered.

This book is made even more poignant because its author, Kathleen Kent, is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier. I read an advance copy of this novel, thanks to Hachette Book Group, and while my copy did not contain an afterword or author's note, I would love to know more about Kent's experience writing this book and researching her family line.

The Heretic's Daughter will be published in September. If you are interested in learning more about the Salem Witch Trials or you just enjoy historical fiction, this is a book to watch for.

13 comments:

Lezlie said...

I had seen this one and wondered about it. Thanks for the review! When I noticed it, it was listed as a Young Adult novel. Is that how you would classify it?

Thanks!
Lezlie

Carrie K said...

That would be a good era to take a closer look at. I liked Bound, even if I did feel like shaking her a few times.

Tara said...

Lezlie, you're welcome! I would not classify this as a YA novel. The story is told from the point of view of a young girl, and I could see a young person wanting to read this, but this certainly seems meant for the mature reader.

Carrie K, it's a fascinating time in our history, that frankly, I don't know much about. I know what you mean - about Bound!

Lezlie said...

Hmmmm. . . Maybe I will check it out then. It sounds really good.

Lezlie

Lisa said...

This does sound really good. I've always wanted to visit Salem but haven't gotten there, yet. I love historical fiction for the same reasons you state here. I really think a reader can learn as much if not more from well-written historical fiction as they can from non-fiction sources.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Oh my. This sounds like quite the book. It's been a while since I've read about Salem, and this sounds like a fascinating approach.

Iliana said...

This sounds great! I will definitely be on the look out for this one.

Bookfool said...

I read two books about the Salem Witch Trials, last year, and they were completely different in the way the stories were told and the viewpoint. I'll have to look this one up. Thanks for the review!

Tara said...

Lisa, I completely agree. I know I've learned so much from my historical fiction reading, from time periods to specific events.

Heather, it was a definitely a good read, and a topic that many people are interested in, I think. I mean, we hear about it, but I don't think most know the specifics of that period.

Iliana, oh, good. I hope you enjoy it.

Bookfool, I have read another novel about the witch trials, and it wasn't nearly as well done as this. I have a non-fiction book on the subject (unread!) and did reference it to see if I could figure out which parts really happened.

Jo Ann said...

I, too, am a descendent of Martha and Thomas Carrier. I have always believed that Martha was a very strong-willed and independent woman that was before her time. She was married to a meek man and Martha wasn't the most liked individual because she would not allow people to cause harm to her family. I wonder if Kathleen will research an obscure rumour that Thomas was one of the executors of king Charles I and had to flee to America to escape punishment.

Tara said...

Hi Jo Ann, thanks for stopping by and especially for sharing a bit of your history with me. I can't imagine how it must feel to have family ties to these events. That would be fascinating if she did write a book about those events - I remember that being mentioned in the book. I see that you have started a new blog, and I'll be back to read it!

Danielle said...

Sounds good! I'd love to visit Salem (though I bet it's pretty touristy now). I'm looking forward to reading this--it's a period in American history I'm really interested in!

Book Zombie said...

Thanks for the great review! Just last year my studies involved the connections between the Salem Witch Trials, Arthur Miller's The Crucible and the McCarthy era. Having holidayed in Salem I knew some information, but I never realized just how interesting this time period was. This novel seems like a very intriguing read.