Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent (author), Mare Winningham (reader)


Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781609410084, February 2011

Sarah Carrier is the daughter of Thomas and Martha Carrier, hardworking, morally upright residents of Andover in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Unfortunately, it's the early 1690s, and the Salem witch hysteria is beginning.

One of five children, and at ten the older of the two girls, Sarah has to work hard to help maintain the family home, and life gets both harder and scarier when her mother is one of the first women accused of witchcraft. The accusations come first from a jealous relative who wants part of the Carrier property, and then are supported by some local young women, including the Carriers' former indentured servant. Over the next year, Sarah gets a painful education in human nature, the courage and devotion of her parents, and the values she herself will make the core of her life.


As the witch hysteria progresses, each of Sarah's three brothers and finally Sarah herself are all accused and arrested, and join their mother in the horrific conditions of the Salem jail. Their father brings food every few days, as often as he can--it is necessary to pay the sheriff for admittance and visiting time. The sheriff's wife offers pittances in food and water in exchange for the prisoners' clothing if she deems it in salable condition; another little degradation on top of the others. As the hysteria runs its course, each week sees some prisoners taken from the jail to be executed, while some in the community work to counter the hysteria and to get the governor and the great preacher Increase Mather to see what Increase's son Cotton Mather and other fanatics and hysterics in the community have wrought.

The story is framed by Sarah's reflections and further discoveries as an adult about her parents' surprising history prior to moving to Massachusetts Bay Colony. This is a deeply moving story and, while it's a novel, it is based on the life of the real Martha Carrier, a tenth-generation ancestor of the author, Kathleen Kent.

Recommended.

I borrowed this book from a friends.