Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Heretic's Daughter

By Kathleen Kent

Rated: PG

Sarah Carrier was 11 when she was imprisoned and her mother was hung as a witch during the Salem witch trials of 1692. Two years previously, Sarah and her family had moved to Andover from Billerica. Her parents, although good people, were brusque and disliked by their neighbors and in a time of great religious fervor, the community judged them harshly for not attending church services regularly. In moving to her grandmother's farm in Andover, Sarah's parents were hoping to get a fresh start for their family and escape the social stigma of Billerica. Matters did not get started well when it was discovered that the family had brought the smallpox plague with them. Over the next two years, many political, religious, and social enmitites bring about the imprisonment of Sarah's mother and much of her family. When Sarah's mother asks her to do something that will save Sarah and her siblings but surely condemn her mother, young Sarah has to make a choice that will influence her family forever.

This is a well-written novel that I greatly enjoyed. The story is more than the witch trials of Salem. It is about learning to understand family members as more than just mother, father, brothers, and sister but as people who have strengths, weaknesses, and loves of their own. It's about understanding that sometimes truth and justice are worth standing for even when it might cost your life. I think younger readers will be bored by it but it is appropriate for older teens and adults. There are scenes of bullying, beatings, war stories, and other mild violence.