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His much younger wife, Martha, is difficult and sharp tongued, and no one knows this more than her daughter Sarah, the book's narrator. Their lives are somber, their days dominated by backbreaking work.

The Heretic's Daughter -

The family members are, perhaps, not as kind to each other as they could be. Dangers are everywhere, from murderous raids by Indians whose land is being encroached upon, to illnesses and calamities that know no remedy.

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When we first meet the Carriers, they're making their way, in the middle of another hard winter, from the town of Billerica in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the neighboring town of Andover. They believe they're outrunning the smallpox. They're not. And this is where the trouble begins.

Kent recounts the townspeople's case against Goodwife Carrier, incident by small incident. Her family brought the smallpox, she bewitched a fire so that it blew onto someone else's land and not hers, her insolent tongue caused livestock to sicken and die. Tellingly, there's a beef between her husband and brother-in-law, and her nephew wants her property. By the time Sarah is 10, the hysteria and witch hunts have reached a fevered pitch. The accusations of witchcraft spread to Andover, where Martha and others are falsely accused by members of the Toothaker family and superstitious and vindictive neighbors.

The Heretic's Daughter

Before being taken to prison, Martha shares a secret with Sarah and exacts a promise connected with the importance of family loyalty. After Sarah and her brothers are imprisoned, she endures unimaginable hardships and makes a decision that changes her life and that of her family. Except for a few long passages of narrative, the story kept me engaged, and, by the end of the novel, I was sorry it was over. Kent, a descendant of Martha Carrier, has done a bewitching job in her novel, which is the first of what I hope to be many more.

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The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. The Book Report Network.

Interview with Kathleen Kent, Author of The Heretic’s Daughter

Skip to main content. The Heretic's Daughter. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on May 24, All Rights Reserved.

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