Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
332 pages
Published October 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
Source: I bought it to read with The Omaha Bookworms

In December 1690, Sarah Carrier and her family moved from Billerica, Massachusetts to Andover to live with her grandmother. They weren't exactly chased out of Billerica but they weren't really welcome there any more. Soon they would no longer be welcome in Andover, either. Sarah's father, Thomas, has a past that frightens people and her mother is a woman far ahead of her time, unwilling to back down, unwilling to be silent.

"But Martha Carrier was like a deep pond, the surface of which was placid enough but deeply cold to the touch and which was filled beneath the surface with sharp rocks and treacherous choke roots. And she had a tongue, the sharpness of which would gut a man as quick as a Gloucester fisherman could clean a lamprey eel."
The villagers weren't the only ones who didn't much care for Martha Carrier. Sarah found her to be cold and uncaring. After spending some time with her aunt and uncle when her own family was battling small pox, and seeing what a loving family could be like, Sarah was more miserable than ever in her own home. But as cries of witchcraft began to be heard in nearby Salem Village and the villagers of Andover begin to cry out against the Carrier family, Sarah will come to understand her mother in a way she had never thought possible.

Martha Carrier was one of the first women arrested and tried for witchcraft in the craze that swept the new world in 1692. She was not the last family member to be arrested. Sarah and three of her brothers were also arrested and held in the most deplorable of conditions. Over 150 other men, women and children accused of witchcraft were also arrested. Twenty six were tried and convicted in Salem Village alone. Nineteen were hanged; one man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death by stones in an attempt to coerce a confession. It was one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in history.

 Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She is also the author The Wolves of Andover which is Thomas Carrier's story. The Omaha Bookworms were honored to get to speak with Ms. Kent last night via Skype, well we tried to Skype anyway. Due to stormy weather in her area, we weren't able to keep our Skype connection with Ms. Kent, but the phone worked just fine.

Ms. Kent told us that her fascination with Martha Carrier and the Salem witch trials began when she was only eight and first found out that she had a relative who had been accused of witchcraft. It kept her interest for years but not until she was approaching her 50th birthday did Ms. Kent finally decide it was time to write commit the story to paper.  It's always interesting to talk with an author but this was an exceptional case because of the history involved. Ms. Kent talked about which parts of the story were family lore that she discovered to be true (a cow was fed pumpkins and gave golden milk, for example), which parts she learned from reading the trial records, and which parts were developed after extensive research. Ms. Kent is currently working on a third book, also historical fiction, but this one is not based on family history. Look for it, hopefully, in the fall of 2012! Thanks to Ms. Kent for spending so much time with us!

No comments:

Post a Comment