Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Recently I was asked to recommend a book dealing with the Salam Witch Trials and remembered "The Heretic's Daughter." Having lived in Boston and spending many a weekend in Salam, I was honored to meet Kathleen Kent, a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier, the protagonist of this book. Although I first read this book in 2009, I feel it's worth adding to my review site today.

First Sentence: The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles.

The story begins with a letter, written in 1752, from Sarah Carrier Chapman to her grand-daughter. With it, she has sent a book detailing the history of her life in Andover and the events of the Salem Village witch trials.

Sarah is the daughter of Thomas and Martha Carrier. Her father is a tall (7’4”), quiet, hardworking man; her mother is hard, domineering, and distant to the children. Due to neighborhood disputes, and family jealousies, Sarah is accused of being a witch.

The Salem witch trials were a shameful incident in our history.  Kathleen Kent has taken those events and made them real and personal. The extent of her research is evident. In the first part of the story, she describes in detail the hardships of life in that time, and the subjugation of women to men and families to the selectmen of the town and the Puritan pastors. She showed how actions and events can be interpreted by the superstitious, particularly when there is jealousy or an opportunity for power involved.

In the later part of the book, Kent included actual testimony from the trials. Doing so illustrated the absurdity of the trials by showing the fact of them. Kent is a wonderful writer. The story’s voice has the tone of the period.

The characters are well crafted and fully developed giving the events even greater impact. I shall admit my favorite character was Thomas, the father, again remembering all the characters were real.

"The Heretic's Daughter" is a very powerful, painful story and one well worth reading.

THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER (Hist. Fic-Sarah Carrier-Mass-1600s) - VG
Kent, Kathleen – 1st book
Little, Brown and Company, 2008


  1. This sounds really interesting! I do like historical novels where the author has 'done the homework,' and can present the setting and context accurately. And it sounds as though Kent keeps the focus on the plot, which important to me.

    1. The fact that the author is a true descendant of the character is one thing I found particularly fascinating.