It was around Halloween when I was watching one of my favorite seasonal movies about three sisters who happened to be witches. As I laughed along and enjoyed the nostalgia this movie brought to me, I began to wonder about The Salem Witch Trials. It was at this moment I realized I didn't really know much about them at all, so I began searching for a work of historical fiction that would tell me a story while still giving me factual information about this tragic moment in our history.
The Heretic’s Daughter was highly rated and sounded intriguing, so without knowing anything about the author or the story, I decided to pick it up. And I am so happy I did. Although the book is fiction, it is based on a real accused woman from the Salem Witch Trials, Martha Carrier, as well as her family. In fact, the author, Kathleen Kent, is a direct descendent of Martha Carrier, and this book is a product of over five years of research and writing about her heritage. If that isn't spectacularly awesome, I don't know what is.
This book is told from the point of view of Martha’s daughter, Sarah, who is nine at the beginning of the story, but extremely wise. The first half of the book paints a picture of what Puritan New England was like in the late 1600s and I could literally feel the hardships and fears the Carrier family had. The entire community was not only terrified of religious persecution and starvation, but the threat of attacks and famine were constantly on everyone’s minds. Add some vengeful neighbors and hysterical teenagers, and voila- witchcraft accusations.
While the story did not necessarily provide a ton of information regarding the trials, it did give a glimpse of what Martha had to go through when she was accused, as well as what her young children had to endure when they, too, were imprisoned. I feel it serves as a tribute to this strong and assertive woman who refused to give in to the hysteria and challenged the judges as well as her accusers.
Overall, the story is a unique version of the Salem Witch Trials, and proves to capture the mood and fear of this time period perfectly. Kent provides a vivid portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship and how it evolves during times of suffering and fear. The Heretic’s Daughter gave me an excellent foundation of the time period and it made me want to learn more about this tragic time in our nation's history.