Review of The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter

The Heretic's Daughter

I’ve had this on my reading pile for one of the most longest time ever. I started reading it then stopped. Finally I picked it up again and had to reread as I forgot where I left off (and it had been a long time since I last read the book). I really have to stop doing that. However I can’t help it if some other book comes along and demands my attention more than the other. If only I can clone myself to read more…..anyway, I’m stalling.

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. (Taken from

Never has a book given me so many strong emotions as this one. It’s amazing how mass hysteria can produce such irrational, mind baffling ideas that make the impossible become reality. I just couldn’t believe they could get away with accusing these innocent people (even children) with the most ridiculous charges. I could actually feel myself get angry at such injustices. Especially towards Sarah and her mother. It made me want to go in there and give everybody a good slap and wake up call. Nevertheless, I thought the book was a good read. A book that stirs such emotions is definitely worth a read. There was a point in the book (the trial part) where it literally made my blood boil and I had to set it down a couple of times, to me, that just means the book was good. Really good.

The characters in the book were very well written. I loved the relationship between Sarah and her mother. Although strained, and even cold, it’s a lot like the mother-daughter relationships today. When Sarah comes to terms with her mother, it’s sad and quite possibly filled with regrets but it changes Sarah from a naive young girl to a mature one, who now sees the world in a very different way. I also thought her relationship with her father was interesting as well and it’s an eye opener when she realizes that her parents are loving and caring even if they don’t display it openly. I really did like reading this through Sarah’s point of view. It’s amazing and I really enjoyed her character development. I also liked Martha (Sarah’s mother) as well. She was so strong willed and strong minded, she was an extremely admirable woman and her actions while in jail were extremely brave.

This book also got me to hate certain characters far more than usual. Mercy and her little sidekick Phoebe were absolutely hateful and are just as bad as present day bullies at school. Mercy really got to me though, if it wasn’t for her, Sarah’s life might have been different. Argh. Horrible hateful Mercy!

The only real complaint I have is the ‘red book’ mentioned. It is given to Sarah yet the contents within the book were never revealed. That was a bit of a disappointment for me, I was curious and wanting to know what secrets it might have, and to have it never discussed made the ending lacking. Also, the focus on Sarah’s moments in prison were a little too long winded and dragged for a bit. It could have been slightly shorter.

Pick this book up and be ready for the emotional ride. The book is well written and generates a lot of feeling from the reader. Don’t expect any happy feelings from this one though. It covers tragic events and is an eye opener on how mass hysteria can run amok, and how easily people (even family) can turn against one another.

I give it an 8 out of 10.


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