The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

I read The Crucible by playwright Arthur Miller many years ago and I was shocked and disturbed over the unbelievable horrors that gripped New England in the late seventeenth century.
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent also deals with that period of mass hysteria and religious extremism which resulted in accusations of witchcraft, the imprisonment of about 150 people, including children, and the hanging deaths of fourteen women and five men. The Heretic’s Daughter is told through the knowing eyes of ten year old Sarah, daughter of accused witch, Martha Carrier.

“Life is not what you have or what you can keep. It is what you can bear to lose.”

From the Publisher

“In 1752, Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter, revealing the secret she has closely guarded for six decades…
Her story begins more than a year before the Salem witch trials, when nine-year-old Sarah and her family arrive in a New England community already gripped by superstition and fear. As they witness neighbor pitted against neighbor, friend against friend, hysteria escalates – until more than two hundred men, women, and children have been swept into prison. Among them is Sarah’s mother, Martha Carrier.
In an attempt to protect her children, Martha asks Sarah to commit an act of heresy – a lie that will most surely condemn Martha even as it will save her daughter.” Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company


Book Club Ideas

The Book Club chose The Heretic’s Daughter for our October meeting.  October is also the month of  Halloween.  I love Halloween, and all the decorations, spooks, haunts, pumpkins, and witches that come with it.  My choice of  party decorations and food are not meant to trivialize the sufferings that occurred in Salem in 1692, but to bring fun to a holiday I thoroughly enjoy.

Decorations

Pumpkins, witches and several items from the novel for decorations:

Murmet, Poppet and Red Book

I have a huge weakness for Halloween collectibles, especially from Jim Shore and Glitterville Studios.  Below is my Jim Shore Skeleton Witch with Broom: Comes the Storm.  I have an adorable Glitterville devil votive that I purchased in Boston some years back. I included a photo of it at the bottom of this post, even though it’s not a witch or a pumpkin, it was purchased in New England!

Skeleton Witch with Broom: Comes the Storm

Music

Classical music with just the right amount of creepiness.
The Classical Halloween Collection


Book Club Menu

Appetizers

Sweet and salty Fall Harvest Snack Mix, and the Wickedly Wonderful Witchy Cheese Ball
with wheat crackers, and fresh vegetables.

The Main Course

Individual  Charmed Chicken Pot Pies and Rich and Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Sweets

Choco-Espresso Witches’ Hats Cookies (I can get myself in serious trouble with these decadent little morsels!)

Spooky Witches’ Fingers Cookies (Ewww!  So creepy!)

Beverages

Spellbound Petite Shirah and Cabernet Sauvignon (delicious!  can’t decide which I prefer) and Witches’ Brew Ale.


Book Club Resources

I enjoyed this novel’s perspective as told from the eyes of a nine year old girl and was gripped with a feeling of dread throughout the novel.
Here are more reviews:

Discussion

  1. What were the driving forces that led to the witchcraft hysteria of 1692 Puritan New England?
  2. What was it about Martha’s personality that drew the scorn of her neighbors?
  3. Why did it seem Thomas did so little to protect his family?
  4. Why did Thomas avoid persecution?

The Author and Awards

Kathleen Kent is tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier, and she spins a gripping tale of the Salem Witch Trials.   I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Kent discuss The Heretic’s Daughter at the Texas Book Festival in Austin.  She recounted her grandmother’s description of Martha Carrier, as not a witch, but merely “a ferocious woman.”


Other Bewitching Notions

I was most intrigued by Thomas Carrier, Martha’s husband. As bits of his past were revealed, I had more difficulty understanding his seeming lack of action as his wife and children were arrested. I’m looking forward to uncovering some of the mystery surrounding this man in The Wolves of Andover which is scheduled for release in November 2010. I would love to hear readers’ comments!

Photos from our Book Club Party

The Party was held at Katy’s house. The evening was wonderful as we sat outside on a deck overlooking the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

The moon shone bright!

Thank you Katy for a memorable evening!