Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and willful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. Often at odds with one another, mother and daughter are forced to stand together against the escalating hysteria of the trials and the superstitious tyranny that led to the torture and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of witchcraft. This is the story of Martha's courageous defiance and ultimate death, as told by the daughter who survived.
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She paints a haunting portrait, not just of Puritan New England, but also of one family's deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.
Massachusetts, December 1690
THE DISTANCE BY wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles. For myself it was more than a journey away from the only home I had ever known. It was the ending of a passage from the dark fog of infancy to the sharp remembrances of childhood. I was nine years of age on that December day and my entire family was going back to live with my grandmother in the house where my mother was born. We were six in all, cramped together in an open wagon, carry ing within my mother and father, two of my older brothers, myself, and Hannah, who was but a baby. We had with us all of our house hold possessions. And we were bringing, unbeknownst to any of us, the smallpox.
A plague of it had swept across the settlements of Middlesex County, and with our crossing east over Blanchard's Plain, contagion and death followed with us. A close neighbor, John Dunkin of Billerica, had died within the space of one week, leaving ...
The events of 1692 are well-trod ground even for those who slept through history class. Grisly, sensational, and safely far away in time, the Salem witch trials are easily one of the most popular topics for school reports. Like many events sketched repeatedly in thumbnail fashion, the witch trials have become a caricature, a short-hand reference for fanaticism and the darker passages of America's colonial history. So it speaks to the strength of Kathleen Kent's writing that each page of The Heretic's Daughter erased more and more of the schoolbook history I thought I knew. I could not put this book down, and finished it all in one long, nerve-wracking, soul-wrenching gulp even though I knew what happened before I even cracked the cover.
(Reviewed by Lucia Silva).
Full Review (776 words).
The Salem Witch Trials
From June through September of 1692, fourteen women and five men were hanged in Salem Village on charges of witchcraft, and Martha Carrier was among them. Nearly 150 men, women, and children were imprisoned, and an unknown number perished while they languished in crowded jails for months until the trials were brought to an end. One man was stoned to death in an effort to force him to testify. Children were brought to testify against their parents, or to admit to also being witches, and some were tortured. Many of the accused pled guilty to save themselves from death, and were imprisoned and deprived of their property rights.
How it all began
In the early ...
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