The HERetic’s Daughter

Historical fiction is increasingly becoming one of my favorite genres of fiction. This type of fiction combines good stories with true events relevant to history. The latest book of this genre that I just finished reading is The HERetic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. I had noticed this book on the shelves at bookstores for the past few weeks. Only when I read that the author was going to speak and sign books at a new store in Plano did I decide to read the book. After only three nights and one lunch at various bookstores, I had finished reading the book from cover to cover. I decided I would actually buy the book and go hear Kathleen Kent speak the next day and get a copy signed.

The HERetic’s Daughter is the story of one of the victims of the Salem witch trials from 1692 to 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Her name was Martha Carrier and the author is a descendent of this innocent woman, which made the story even more interesting. Ms. Kent writes from the viewpoint of Sarah, Martha Carrier’s 10-year-old daughter. Sarah Carrier was also imprisoned for months and suffered greatly before being released. Thankfully, she was not hanged, as was her mother.

If you read this book you will recognize that Ms. Kent did extensive research to prepare for the book. She said researching and writing the book actually took approximately 5 years. She does a fine job of helping the readers believe we have been transported back to the time of the Puritans, when survival on a daily basis was so difficult. This difficulty not only included the threat of Indians, disease, and starvation, but also the travesties of justice caused by greed, envy, revenge, etc. that will always be prevalent in humans.

I enjoyed the book because of the author’s excellent style of writing from a child’s perspective. A similar novel told from a little girl’s point of view relevant to the times is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a familiar book to most. Even though when you begin to read the first chapter of a book of historical fiction (Ms. Kent did read the entire first chapter to the audience), and you know the ending will not be good, you are compelled to find out the details and motivations of the characters, both good and bad, from the particular author’s angle. Will he or she be sympathetic or judgmental of each of the characters? How does this author see the events and what are his or her conclusions?

I read The HERetic’s Daughter having forgotten everything about the Salem witch trials, even though I read The Crucible and saw the movie years ago. I think I will reread Arthur Miller’s play again because now it has new meaning for me and I want to once again view Miller’s commentary on the McCarthy era. From surfing the net, I have noticed another book about the witch trials and another victim, Bridget Bishop, entitled The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry. Intriguing . . .