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.