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The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel Paperback – October 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The panic and horror of the Salem witch trials in Kents novel is conveyed with dead-eyed calm and an occasional tremor of emotion by Mare Winningham, whose tempered, dispassionate voice is not given to great displays of drama. Her melodiousness is pleasing to the ear, and Kents novel becomes a sort of long-form song possessed of many verses and no chorus. At times, the melody overwhelms the meaning, but Winningham is more than capable as a reader, and her reading of Kents sad tale of women accused and accusing emits a hint of deeply buried, untouchable tragedy. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, June 30). (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Told from the point of view of young Sarah, the daughter of one of the first women to be accused, tried, and hanged as a witch in Salem, this novel paints a vivid and disturbing picture of Puritan New England life. Based on fact and the author's family history, the story portrays Martha, Sarah's mother, as a strong-willed nonconformist who knows she is a target of the zealots who pit family members against one another with their false accusations. All but one of the siblings end up imprisoned with their mother, and much of the story is told from the inhumane and corruptly run jail. When Martha is finally executed, her husband "would stand for all of us so that when she closed her eyes for the last time, there would be a counterweight of love against the overflowing presence of vengeance and fear." History is brought to life as readers learn of the strength of Martha's convictions and the value she places on her conscience. They will also appreciate the themes of family love, repression, intolerance, and persecution in this beautifully written and compelling first novel.—Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (October 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316024495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316024495
  • ASIN: 031602449X
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (343 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Kathleen Kent is the author of three best-selling novels. Her first novel, The Heretic's Daughter, has been published in 15 countries and is a recipient of the David J. Langum Sr. award for American historical fiction. The book chronicles the life of Martha Carrier, the author's grandmother back 9 generations, during the Salem witch trials of 1692, and is based in part on family stories passed down through generations.

Her second novel, The Traitor's wife, explores the life of Thomas Carrier, husband to Martha; a man who was a soldier during the English Civil War and who is rumored to be one of the executioners of King Charles I of England.

The author's latest novel, The Outcasts, is set in Reconstruction Era Texas and follows the paths of a young woman fleeing a life of prostitution and a newly-minted lawman on the hunt for a killer of men, women and children across the frontier. It is the recipient of the American Library Association's 2014 top choice for Historical Fiction.

A short story titled Coincidences Can Kill You was published in the crime anthology, Dallas Noir. She is currently working on a novel-length work based on this short story.

The author lives in Dallas, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

190 of 192 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on September 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is one of the best novels I've read this year; certainly in the top five. The fact that Kent is a descendent of the Carriers adds an emotional connection to the story that makes the account even more personal.

Sarah Carrier, the ten year old narrator of the story, lives with her parents Thomas and Martha, along with three brothers and a younger sister Hannah. They live a bleak existence on a small farm near Salem. Kent's ability to bring the toughness of these people to the forefront is interesting, though I think letting Sarah be the narrator limits the impact of the story for the reader. Still, the novel moves quickly with crisp prose and a well rounded plot. There is an element of terror in the pages of The Heretic's Daughter. Knowing that others may be conspiring against you with rumors and innuendo, half truths, and out and out lies may be vaguely familiar to some of the readers. The insanity of it all is that those in charge, those who are relied upon for leadership and for guidance in living our lives, have given up reason and submitted blind fear and in doing so removes Sarah's ability to defend her self.

The Heretic's Daughter is also a story about love. One can't always judge by exterior signs the depth of love and devotion people have for each other. This is especially true in the love between a mother and daughter.

Most readers are familiar with the Salem witch trials of 1692, though having an intimate knowledge of the historical facts isn't required to enjoy The Heretic's Daughter. In fact, having only a sketchy understanding might be an asset.

I found The Heretic's Daughter to be an engaging and worthwhile read.
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Karen Marie on September 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued with the idea of this book but once I got it I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. It is a period in history that doesn't particular interest me. For some reason, however, possibly because Martha Carrier was a real woman, hanged as a witch at Salem, I picked this book up then read for the sheer enjoyment of Kathleen Kent's writing.

An introductory letter, penned in 1752, is from Sarah Carrier Chapman to a granddaughter, giving her the document about the witch trials. Sarah, Martha Carrier's daughter, wants her to understand her family and what really happened.

The language of this book is lyrical yet simple, reflecting the lives of the people living in New England in the 1690s; bound by the seasons, the hard work of a farm, and the religious prejudices and fears.

The setting is Andover, near Salem, in the time period 1691-1693. We learn of Sarah's early life and of her family and the strife between her family and that of her aunt and uncle. We experience Martha's trial, the tribulations of the prisons, the deaths of the people accused of being witches, and the freeing of the children and ultimately the freeing of the rest of the accused. There is a last chapter that carries us through 1735 and tells what happened to some of Sarah's family members and neighbors.

It is amazingly well written and flows beautifully. The characters are vividly drawn. Sarah reveals in anecdotes the traits that eventually earn her mother a place on the hanging tree - her intelligence, her assertiveness, her unwillingness to lie and give in, her strength of conviction and will. Martha Carrier was an admirable woman. So, too, is Sarah.

I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in Puritan America, the witch trials of Salem, and farm life in the late 17th century. It is very good historical fiction.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on August 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Heretic's Daughter tells the story of the Salem witch trials from the perspective of 10-year-old Sarah Carrier, whose family becomes a target of her community's hysteria. Kent's unadorned prose captures the immediacy and emotion of Sarah's story and evokes an authentic setting by using old-fashioned phrases and metaphors drawn from familiar tasks (scything grass, harvesting wheat) and materials (beeswax, homespun cloth) of the era. The quick-moving plot and well-developed characters make this an easy book to get caught up in.

Because Sarah is a young narrator, she doesn't fully understand the horrible events unfolding around her. This perspective adds an agreeable innocence to the tale, but also creates a bit of distance between the action and the reader's experience of the action. As a narrator, Sarah is incapable of stepping back from the events at hand and considering the frightening implications of those events for human society in general. Overall, The Heretic's Daughter is a heartbreaking story well told.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on September 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"The Heretic's Daughter", the debut novel of author Kathleen Kent is a gripping piece of historical fiction weaved in with fact. The story centers around the Carrier family and is narrated by 10-year-old Sarah Carrier whose family is made up of father Thomas, mother Martha, brothers Richard, Andrew and Tom and little sister Hannah. Sarah's relationship with her mother is fraught with tension and hostility as Sarah yearns for a more empathetic and outwardly loving mother, whereas Martha Carrier is a strong woman who takes care of her family, but is not prone to outward shows of affection.

The Carrier family move from their homestead in Billerica to Martha's mother's farm in Andover, and when Andrew Carrier contracts smallpox, the family is quarantined and Sarah and Hannah are covertly smuggled over to the home of Marha's sister and her family. Sarah comes to love her aunt and uncle and forms an especially close friendship with her kindred spirit, Margaret, a little girl around her own age. Their open displays of affection contrast sharply with Sarah's own family and she is reluctant to leave when the time comes. Unbeknown to Sarah, all is not as it seems and there are much greater tensions and animosity between her own family and her uncle's.

At the same time, strange and disturbing events begin to unfold in Salem Village, with a group of young girls going into fits, and accusing others of witchcraft. Trials are convened and many innocent victims are wrongly accused of practising the Devil's work, all at the whim of the young girls. In Andover, Sarah finds her own family being suspected of unholy alliances, especially given Martha Carrier's sharp tongue and rebellious nature.
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