Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: The Heretic's Daughter & Winner

Summary: 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. -- Hachette Book Group

I have been seeing quite a few positive reviews of THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER by Kathleen Kent, and I knew it sounded like a book that was "right up my alley." I usually enjoy historical fiction books, but I am especially drawn to books about the Salem Witch Trials. I can't exactly say why, but I am just amazed that something like this was ever allowed to happen. When Miriam from Hachette Book Group mentioned that she was hosting a BlogTalk Radio show with the author, I started the book immediately (it gave me the kick in the rear that I needed.) I am so glad that I did -- THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER lived up to the hype, and the radio show was very interesting too (you'll definitely want to listen to it.)

If you like historical fiction books, you're going to want to check out THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. I thought the historical aspects of the book were very interesting, but Ms. Kent also developed wonderful and memorable characters. For some reason, I just love reading a great book and learning a thing or two too! I think this book captured the essence of this time period perfectly.

What I really thought made this book so special was that the author chose for Martha's young daughter Sarah to tell this story (I thought it was interesting that Ms. Kent initially wrote this book in Martha's voice.) I loved that this story was told through the eyes of a child because it showed so clearly how devastating this time period was. Sarah was a strong-willed and very intelligent child who often times had issues with both of her parents -- she was more like her mother than she realized. As the story progresses, Sarah is forced to grow up in so any ways; and she eventually begins to appreciate her family's relationships for what they were. I thought the author did a wonderful job of developing Sarah's character -- some of the most beautifully written (and difficult to read) parts were when Sarah was in prison and dealing with her guilt.

This book is not a light read! It is incredibly sad for so many reasons -- one being that it describes the horrendous things that happened to Martha and her family. I thought the author did a wonderful job incorporating her research on the trials and the prisons with the imprisonment of Martha and her family. I especially loved how she showed the reader not only the characters' physical pain, but also how these events affected them mentally and spiritually. I was so deeply disturbed with how the Witch Trials devastated so many families and resulted in the loss of innocence for so many children.

Not only was this book extremely interesting, but it was also very well-written. THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER is Ms. Kent's first novel, and I can tell that it was a labor of love. It's obvious from the start that she did a huge amount of research -- this book was full of so much historical information about Puritans and the Salem Witch Trials. I find it so fascinating that Ms. Kent is a 10th generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She became very interested in this time period as a child when she heard her family discussing the witch trials; and as a result, she began thoroughly researching these events -- you can read more about her history here. I believe that her personal link to this time period and her desire to tell her relatives' story made her words (and this story) especially meaningful.

THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER would make a most excellent book club selection! I'm thinking of recommending it to my own group since I know we'd all love the book. There are so many issues to discuss, but I think it would be wonderful to just delve into the characters' personalities and stories. There are discussion questions available that I thought were very good too.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to announce the winner! Congratulations to tammy. Please e-mail me with your name and address so I can forward it to Hachette as soon as possible!


Anonymous said...

I thought the radio show was great too. Kathleen was so interesting.

darbyscloset said...

Congrats Tammy, you lucky girl you!
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Serena said...

Congrats Tammy. You are lucky.

Anonymous said...

*The Heretic's Daughter* is waiting on my bookshelf for me ... thanks for a review that will push it higher in the stack for me.

I listened to the interview yesterday (couldn't call in during the show). I love this Authors on Air series.

Congratulations to Tammy!

Yasmin said...

I finally got a change to read this one at the end of 2008 and I agree with your comments...definitely a very good read...recommend for historical fiction fans but it oh so sad.