Title: The Heretic’s Daughter
Author: Kathleen Kent
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my own library
First line: The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles.
Sarah Carrier, the title character, is a nine-year-old girl living in Puritan New England. It’s a time of disease, hard labor, superstition, and suspicion. She is the daughter of a strong-willed and sharp-tongued woman, Martha Carrier. Her father, a Welshman, fought with Cromwell in the English Civil War. There are rumors about his role in the execution of King Charles. Now, he just wants to be left alone to raise his family and carve a homestead out of the rugged and unforgiving New England landscape.
The Puritans are plagued with fears: Indian attack, diseases like smallpox, inclement weather that can destroy a year’s livelihood in the fields – and witchcraft. Sarah is raised against the backdrop of the Salem Witch Trials. Although Sarah and her family live outside Andover, the hysteria and accusations soon fly the bounds of Salem proper, and devastate everyone she cares about.
Kathleen Kent is a brilliant wordsmith, painting pictures with the words she chooses. Because the novel is in first person, I felt I became little Sarah Carrier as I read. I could see what she saw, smell what she smelled, feel what she felt. The most astonishing thing is that this is Kathleen Kent’s first novel. I highly recommend The Heretic’s Daughter to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.