Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

" A needle is such a small, brittle thing. It is easily broken. It can hold but one fragile thread. But if the needle is sharp, it can pierce the coarsest cloth. Ply the needle in and out of a canvas and with a great length of thread one can make a sail to move a ship across the ocean. In such a way can a sharp gossipy tongue, with the thinnest thread of rumor, stitch together a story to flap in the breeze. Hoist that story upon the pillar of superstitious belief and a whole town can be pulled along with the wind of fear."

Massachusetts, 1690. In a society of fiercely Puritan people every misfortune is attributed to the will of God. Crops failing, fires, storms, sickness, all portents from God meant to punish. Such an atmosphere made the perfect setting for a group of silly girls to instigate a mass hysteria, claiming to be the victims of spells put upon them by fellow neighbors and residents of surrounding towns.

One of those accused of witchcraft was Martha Carrier. This is her story and that of her family. When the smallpox came to their home town of Billerica, Martha, her husband Thomas and children fled to the home of her Mother in Andover. When people subsequently came down with the smallpox in Andover, suspicion was thrown on the Carrier family. It did not help that Martha was a feisty woman who said what she thought and confronted her neighbors when disputes arose. Women at the time were supposed to be quiet and subservient to men, so she and her family did not make many friends.

The narrative is told through the eyes of Martha's daughter, Sarah, who is nine years old when the book opens. Since Martha does not have an affectionate nature, Sarah doesn't realize, until it is too late, how great her love for her Mother is and that strength of character might be more important than affection. Through one selfless and heroic act Martha sacrifices herself to save her children and in doing so teaches them the importance of faith in oneself and the power of family.

In her debut novel, Kathleen Kent explores one of the darkest periods of American history and takes the reader into the realms of her own family legend. Ms. Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier and grew up hearing the stories of her ancestors. She has presented us with a rich and historically accurate tale that, in my opinion, is one of the best books of the year. She is currently working on a prequel, the story of Thomas Carrier before he came to Massachusetts.

Yesterday I was fortunate to be included in a Blog Talk Radio Interview with Kathleen Kent. It was a fascinating and absorbing half hour. You can listen to the complete interview by clicking the link above or the play button in the post below.

Visit the website here.

The Heretic's Daughter is published by Little Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-02448-8

Order The Heretic's Daughter from Amazon

15 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read The Heretic's Daughter yet, but I did listen to the show. Kathleen Kent is fascinating. She sounded like she would be so easy to talk to. I wish she'd come to a book signing near me.

Ladytink_534 said...

I've heard so much about this book over the past few months. I just know that I have to read this eventually even though I know how bad fiction set during this time period upsets me...

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Now this is one I have been avidly reading all reviews on....I'm convinced I have to read it now.

You've also been tagged for the "7 Random Facts Tag - Book Edition" over at A Reader's Respite! Come on over to see your instructions. ;)

Dawn said...

*The Heretic's Daughter* is patiently waiting on the bookshelf for me; your review is great, maybe I'll be able to bump it up in the stack :)

Yes, the Authors on Air series is great. Especially nice that they're saved as podcasts if I can't call in and talk/listen live.

Teddy Rose said...

What a wonderful review! I just received The Heretic's Daughter in trade with another blogger friend and I am really looking forward to curling up with it!

tashiana said...

wow now this looks good
scarlett letter meets salem witch tirals--sorta lol
interesting that it's told from the child's perspective

Pam said...

This really does sound fascinating. I thought it was a complete work of fiction; I didn't realize that one of the characters is based on a real person.

melacan at hotmail dot com

Madwoman-doing-cartwheels said...

I have been eagerly awaiting this book in paperback. Thanks for the wonderful review. This time in history was so dark and sinister and so many, many women died simply because they were midwives, herbalists and healers. I am glad to see more books on this topic by courageous women who want to share our collective Her-story.

rubymoonstone at gmail dot com

Madwoman-doing-cartwheels said...

I'd love to be entered in this giveaway! Thanks for the chance.
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rubymoonstone at gmail dot com

Esme said...

I like the way you started the review.

susan.byerly said...

This sounds like a great book to read. Will have to put it on my list. Thanks for the review.
susan.byerly@comcast.net

Barb said...

What fascinating research this must have been for Kathleen as she gathered the historically accurate facts about the era and then about her family's role in this era. A time to be proud as a descendent and yet a time for some sadness.

Your review is great and generates in the reader an interest to read this book. Thanks for your hard work.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

Barb said...

I just commented on your review of The Heretic's Daughter.

bstilwell12 at comcast dot net

CherylS22 said...

Thank you for this wonderful review of "The Heretic's Daughter". I've been following this book through the blogs & have become very interested in reading it.

Jennifer said...

Excellent review of Heretic's Daughter. It is a novel I have been wanting to read and of course, I love the time period.

Thank you!!

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.