" 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
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