The Heretic’s Daughter

In 1692 Martha Carrier was arrested, tried, and hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, for having committed “sundry acts of witchcraft.” Ten generations on, her Dallas-based descendant Kathleen Kent has produced The Heretic’s Daughter , a sure-footed first novel that draws from Martha’s tribulations to evoke the short-lived witch hysteria in the New England colonies. By contemporary standards, Martha was hardly public enemy number one—her alleged sorcery supposedly resulted in a lost sow, some dead livestock, and a gaggle of frightened schoolgirls—yet four of her five children were shackled and jailed to coerce testimony against their mother. She, of course, was convicted; as a final indignity, her husband, Thomas, was required to reimburse his family’s jailers for their manacles. It’s a compelling tale on its own, but the voice of surviving daughter Sarah, whose fictional memoir makes up the narrative, is what sells the story. Her reminiscences transport us to distant times (“The [inn] was like a small cavern, smogged and musty … Men sat about the few tables, eating their noonday meal”), and not always pleasantly: Her depiction of the squalid jail will make your skin crawl. The Heretic’s Daughter is haunting; unlike in seventeenth-century Salem, there is real magic at work here. Little, Brown, $24.99

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