The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel

By Kathleen Kent
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company, (9/3/2008)

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.50 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

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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.
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ATripp's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:3/30/2010

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Sondra's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:3/30/2010

This book could have been a worthwhile read if it was better written and more poignant. It moved painfully slowly. Beyond that, the writing style was strange. It mixed too many mediums. It started with a letter, and yet it was a letter to a non-existent person as far as the novel is concerned. The placement of the trial documents were quite randomly placed and I actually thought that after the placement, we were going to jump back to the timeframe of the letter from the beginning.

I wanted to feel for the characters, but I just couldn't. I felt like I was just sitting around waiting for things to happen. I also felt as though I was being told things and not shown, especially with all the author's similes and metaphors every other paragraph. Similes and metaphors are like salt; sprinkle a little and it adds flavor, add too much and it ruins the taste. And yet the things that needed to be told were just hinted and skirted around so much that the eventual "realization" could never live up to the expectations, e.g. her father's mysterious past that was hinted about heavily (red book, anyone?) and yet never fully disclosed. You cannot put so much weight into something that you never shed light on more than a passing page that ambiguously talks about it at the end. Doesn't jive with me as the reader.

Overall, I am very disappointed in a book that I was looking forward to reading. Slow going and built-up too much. Such a time period can, if well written, really pull the reader in and pull out emotions. This novel, unfortunately, lacks that ability.

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Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:8/21/2009

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bshimoura's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:8/5/2009

A compelling book that was slow to start; it had to give the background of the family and the hardships of living in the 1690's. Then the trials, were terrible.

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Reese's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:5/2/2009

This was an interesting read for me as I didn’t realize I liked it until the end of the book. I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem witch trials so when the author, Kathleen Kent, didn’t dive right into it…I was initially disappointed. The first part of the book set the stage with the hardworking life on the farm for the Carrier family and the reality of the plague. It gave you the chance to get to know the characters and their relationships and secrets but it did drag on for quite a bit. Finally, once Kent got to the accusations, trials and hangings, the stage setting made a little more sense and the book settled into its purpose. Shocking to attribute a good part of this history to the acting ability of a group of young girls. The prison scenes are descriptive and horrible, but oddly are the best part because it showed the actual reality of the witch trials. While I wasn’t always fond of the Carrier family members, I did like the development of the relationships and the strength of the family as they were tested through the horrific trials. It was good to know the author was a direct descendent of the Carrier’s as I thought it gave the story a little more life. All in all an easy, slow read that works.

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Sam's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:4/30/2009

The Heretic's Daughter is the story of a family living in Puritan New England during the Salem Witch Trials. Engaging characters and vivid imagery made up for the somewhat predictable plot. Kathleen Kent, the author and a direct descendent of major character Martha Carrier, writes of slander, deceit, and the secrets that are often hidden from children to protect them. I enjoyed the passages of the family pulling together to work the farm and run the household. The descriptions of their crops and meals, bountiful one year and barren the next, made me think of simpler times and how excessive modern American life can be. Ultimately, it’s a book about family, and how the bond of blood grows stronger and stronger when needed. The plot won’t shock you; there are no strange twists or sudden revelations, but The Heretic’s Daughter is a good piece of historical fiction.

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Ceci's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:4/29/2009

It’s a brave author that tries to tread on the same path as Arthur Miller and his Crucible. Kent tries out a different take on the Salem witch trials by viewing it through the eyes of a young girl and her relationship with her mother/accused witch. As the mother of a 5 year-old daughter who already thinks she’s smarter than me, I can’t say that I didn’t take some pleasure in Sarah’s discovery that her mother was actually a selfless and noble figure, not the “witch” she thought had no tender feelings for her and the rest of her family. Some interesting details of Puritan life are described, and the prison scenes are pretty harrowing. Overall, though, I thought the writing level might be more suitable for a young adult novel.

Mildly Unleashable

Nick's thoughts on "The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
updated on:4/28/2009

Although the book kind of drags on for the beginning, I thought it was quite interesting. Of course my previous knowledge of witches and the witch trials was limited to what I learned when I briefly dated a witch. (I must add here that - witches rock! What a peaceful group. I highly recommend getting to know some if you can.) To bad the people of Sarah's time did not see it that way. Disbelieve and anger were my overwhelming feeling towards the accusers. What they got away with was obsurd! It is so hard to switch your brain to the mentality of the times, but Kent does do quite a job of making the time real. It struck me how much time Sarah spent thinking with her stomach... it was one of the nice ways that Kent brings you into the reality of the time. The last 1/4 of the book really makes it worth the read. Lots of interesting dynamics going on, you just need all the back story before then so it all makes sense.

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"The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel"
By Kathleen Kent

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.50 out of 5 (8 Clubie's ratings)

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By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
1)  How was Sarah changed by living with her cousin Margaret?  How was she changed by returning to her family?
2)  What was it about Martha's character that seemed to antagonize so many neighbors?
3)  What do you think was the most compelling reason that Martha was eventually brought to trial?
4)  Discuss the various factors that lead to the witch hysteria.
5)  Why did Martha choose to take a stand of innocence knowing that a refused confession meant death?
6)  Why did Thomas, despite his size and capabilities, not seek to persuade or deter Martha from her course of action?
7)  Why did the community of Salem, and the magistrates, so easily believe in and rely on "spectral evidence”?
8)  How has reading the book changed your opinions about the men and women hanged as witches?
9)  Are there modern day "witches”?
10)  Can we, or should we, redefine the meaning of the word "witch"?

Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
Some people think that McCarthy's hunt for Communists in the 1950s was a parallel to the Salem witch trials. Could a modern day witch hunt happen in 2009? 

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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A family's conflict becomes a battle for life and death in this gripping and original first novel based on family history from a descendant of a condemned Salem witch. After a bout of smallpox, 10-year-old Sarah Carrier resumes life with her mother on their family farm in Andover, Mass., dimly aware of a festering dispute between her mother, Martha, and her uncle about the plot of land where they live. The fight takes on a terrifying dimension when reports of supernatural activity in nearby Salem give way to mass hysteria, and Sarah's uncle is the first person to point the finger at Martha. Soon, neighbors struggling to eke out a living and a former indentured servant step forward to name Martha as the source of their woes. Sarah is forced to shoulder an even heavier burden as her mother and brothers are taken to prison to face a jury of young women who claim to have felt their bewitching presence. Sarah's front-row view of the trials and the mayhem that sweeps the close-knit community provides a fresh, bracing and unconventional take on a much-covered episode. (Sept.) 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

From Booklist
Kent, a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier (who was hanged as a witch in Salem in 1692), personalizes the witchcraft trials in this fictional account by Martha’s daughter. Sarah Carrier was just nine years old when she and her three older brothers also were arrested for witchcraft, spending months imprisoned under horrific conditions while following their mother’s dictum of admitting the charges against them to escape death. But Martha gave her life maintaining her innocence in the face of lying accusations that were fueled by her sharp tongue, her family’s unknowingly bringing smallpox to Andover from their home in Billerica, family disputes (including tensions between a mother and her preadolescent daughter), and grudges between neighbors—all at a time when any negative event was thought to be the work of the devil in human form. Kent brings history to life in this vivid, sometimes wrenching account of a child and her family sustained by love through the hysteria of the time. An illuminating literary debut. --Michele Leber 

"A powerful coming-of-age tale in which tragedy is trumped by an unsinkable faith in human nature." (New York Times Book Review Chelsea Cain )

History is more than facts and figures; it's something that happens to all of us. That's the thought that may strike readers of Kent's luminous first novel, set at the time of the Salem witch trials. In fact, Martha Carrier, Kent's grandmother back nine generations, was hanged as a witch in 1692. As portrayed here by her daughter, Sarah, Martha is a proud, stubborn, prickly woman, unbending in her beliefs and uninterested in public opinion. When Sarah returns to her family, having been sent away with a little sister because one of her brothers has the plague, she's not sure she wants to go back to her cold mother and dour, seven-foot father, who has some mysterious connection to Cromwell. But when malicious girls start pointing fingers, neighbor turns against neighbor, and Martha is told she will be arrested for witchcraft, she will not run, and she will not make a false confession. But Martha tells Sarah that when she is interrogated about her mother's activities, she must lie to save herself. Amidst the painful details of jail and persecution, deep-seated suspicion and familial betrayal, it is this powerful act of love that crowns the book. Highly recommended. (Library Journal (starred review) Barbara Hoffert )

"An illuminating literary debut." (Booklist (starred review) Michele Leber )

"The Heretic's Daughter is raw, honest and completely captivating. Kathleen Kent takes what would seem to be a familiar subject and gives it a fresh, new perspective -- moving us through a wrenching gamut of emotions as she does so. A searing look at one of the worst periods in our history." (Anita Shreve ) 

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Kathleen Kent lives in Dallas with her husband and son. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is her first novel. 

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