Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Date Finished: Sept 23, 2008 #55
To be fair and honest and going to preface this by saying that I don’t think I would have been really drawn into any book I read this week, and so I’m not sure if it is the book or if it’s me that failed. When I came home from work on Friday and saw the book leaning against my front porch I was so excited I started it immediately. I read and read but was never really drawn into the book. The problem is that I can’t quite figure out why, which makes me wonder if it is simply me. The two reviewers below loved the book…
The Heretic’s Daughter is set in the late 1690s in the settlements surrounding Boston. Well–you all know the basic story: Salem witch trials, heretics, people speaking against others, and finally witch hangings. The story is told through the eyes of young Sarah whose family has just been uprooted from their hometown as they unknowingly carry smallpox to their new residence. Along with the smallpox, there are several other incidents that make their neighbors wary of Sarah’s family and when the names start being called out for those who are witches, Sarah’s mother is one of the first to be called to trial.
Much of the book is about Sarah’s struggle to come to terms with her life and the events that have changed everything forever. She struggles with her desire to be loved by her family but also with her age and inability to quite understand the adult world. I was often impatient with Sarah, but I think this is Kent’s ability to craft a nine-year-old well and to write a believable narrative. The second half of the book deals heavily with the trials as well as the imprisonment of Sarah’s family after they have been accused of witchcraft. The second half of the book was incredibly heartbreaking and speaks of the injustices that occurred in the late 1690s in Salem and the Boston areas. This time period has always been fascinating to me–if you like history and non-fiction I would recommend Governing the Tongue by Jane Kamensky–it goes into some detail about the Salem trials as well as other events in early colonial Massachusetts (link takes you to Amazon, not a review).
Overall even despite my lower rating, I would recommend this book. I think that many would find it enjoyable and interesting. There was something about it that never really drew me in, though. Most of the story is mostly introspective and so in many ways it seems as though Sarah is the only really developed character. Kent also uses the first half of the book to “set up” the story and so it wasn’t really until I was two-thirds into the book that I was really interested in the events (i.e. the imprisonment). But that last third of the book–pretty darn good.