Friday, June 22, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent

This is the story of Martha Carrier and her family, and how Martha was charged with witchcraft and hung in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts for refusing to admit she was a witch. The story is told through the eyes of Martha's ten-year old daughter Sarah.

We've all heard about the Salem witch trials, but often what we hear is so whitewashed we forget the seriousness of what happened. Though fictionalized, this account of the trials and the events leading to the arrests was taken from historical documents and stories the author, a  descendent of Martha Carrier, heard from her mother and grandmother. Even though you may be uncomfortable reading it, all Americans should read it so that we don't forget what happened.

The hardships of the time, independent of the charges of witchcraft, were eye-opening and made me thankful for growing up in a time of comfort and leisure. At the time, even the youngest children were expected to pull their load in the field as well as in household duties. The parents had more children to provide more  workers, and because so many died because of disease.

The squalor of the prison where the Carriers were kept was unbelievable. Martha, her three sons and one of her daughters ended up in prison, leaving her husband Tom to care for the younger daughter and the farm. He also had to provide food and clothing for his wife and children in prison. Prisoners had to pay for the manacles they were forced to wear. The crowded conditions made the filth worse.

As a Christian, I found it difficult to read about how the Puritans crucified the men and women accused of being witches in the name of the church. Prominent ministers added credence to the allegations. What was ironic about it was that the reason the Puritans came to the United States was to escape intolerance. The witch hunts didn't last long, but twenty people were put to death because of the mass hysteria and misunderstands of the time.

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