Based partly on her ancestor’s witch trial, Kathleen Kent presents a fairly matter of fact account of life leading up to and then during the witch trials of the 1690s using a character called Sarah who was a young girl at the time. The first part of The Heretic’s Daughter gives the background of Sarah’s life on the family farm. She sets out milk to entice the mice that eat their grain so that the cats will come out for “a breakfast of fur, teeth, and tail” and thus, save the grain. Sarah also cares for her younger sister (who sometimes annoys her) and prefers living with her cousin’s family, which she did for a time during a smallpox outbreak.
Because of tales told about her idolized father (here Kent does an excellent job of incorporating they story of Charles I and how his executioners were the only ones to escape) and the family’s irregular church attendance, they were never really accepted by the community. So when accusations of witchcraft were made in neighboring towns, Sarah’s mother and the older children become easy targets. The mystery that surrounds Sarah’s parents continues throughout the imprisonment of Sarah, her mother, and her brothers so that one is never quite sure if there might be a hint of truth in the horrible accusations.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.