Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

rating: 4.5/5
genre: adult historical fiction

This beautifully told and heartbreaking book is the story of Sarah Carrier, a ten year old girl living near Salem, Massachusetts in 1690. With near poetic prose, we witness a community harassed with Indian raids and smallpox plagues let fear and uncertainty turn into passion and terror. Neighbor turns against neighbor as old resentments and petty arguments lead to dire consequences - and Sarah and her family are sunk in the middle of it. Despite Sarah's previously course and unfriendly relationship with her mother, Goody Carrier, she's devastated when Goody Carrier is arrested for witchcraft.

Before we even get to the infamous witch trials, we read a portrait of Puritan life and come to truly care for Sarah and understand the harshness of colonial life and law. While not a gripping page turner at first, Kent's use of metaphor and her ability to find beauty in what must have been a truly bleak existence makes this book a joy to read. A few favorite quotes:

A needle is such a small, brittle thing. It is easily broken. It can hold but one fragile thread. But if the needle is sharp, it can pierce the coarsest cloth. Ply the needle in and out of a canvas and with a great length of thread one can make a sail to move a ship across the ocean. In such a way can a sharp gossipy tongue, with the thinnest thread of rumor, stitch together a story to flap in the breeze. Hoist that story upon the pillar of superstitious belief and a whole town can be pulled along with the wind of fear.

Being with Margaret was like standing inside the casing of a lantern, one that kept the warmth in and the stinging insects out.

The scenes during the trials and in the jail were so emotionally charged that I was brought to tears more than once. The story of The Heretic's Daughter is told with passion and grace and leaves one with a sense that there are things in life with struggling for and that there is more than one good way to selflessly love a parent or child. I look forward to reading more from this first time author.

5 comments:

Tricia said...

OK, so I only skimmed your review because this is in my pile to take on vacation this week. But, I'm SO glad you liked it and it makes me even more excited to get to it!

Fyrefly said...

This sounds great... I love(d) Witch of Blackbird Pond, but that's about the only reading exposure I've had to that time period. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on a copy of this one.

Anna said...

This book sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

Trish said...

I think I might have this one coming to me in the mail and you've definitely made me really interested in reading it! Thanks for the great review Corinne!

trish said...

I thought the book was excellent as well. Makes me hope the author is currently working on another book! :-)

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