Little, Brown & Co, 2010. ISBN 978-0-316-06862-8.
Reviewed by Doris Anne Roop-Benner
Posted on 11/04/2010
This book is a work of fiction. However, many of the novel's chief characters are based on actual ancestors of Kathleen Kent and are part of her family legend and Massachusetts lore.
Martha Carrier was twenty-three years old. She was a strong, intelligent, disciplined woman, with a sharp tongue, a ferocious temper, and a prickly refusal to adhere to womanly scrapings. Martha was committed to caring for her pregnant cousin and her family—but she was treated as a servant just because she was unmarried. When the cousin's child was born, she thought he was the most perfect infant she had ever seen—and wished he belonged to her.
Then there was Thomas who worked for the cousin. He had come from England as a young man to escape his troubles there. He was a soldier during the civil wars, had a faded red coat with one arm torn, was close to seven foot tall so men feared him, and his past was threatening to catch up to him. He felt that all men and women should be protected equally under a common law and be free to follow their own conscience.
Thomas told Martha about his life, but asked her not to tell anyone. However, she kept a journal and recorded what went on in her life, including the things that Thomas told her. This could be their undoing.
The journal—a little red "accounting" book as she called it—was sewn inside a pillow casing to keep it hidden until it could illuminate the world to all she had witnessed. It has brought Kent an understanding of who her family was and the sacrifices they made.
There is much in this book about the lives of women and how they had to fight for even the bare necessities—especially when the men were at war, or were titled with property, and women had no legal rights. It is illuminating and frightening at the same time.
"Be ye 'ware of untrue prophets that come in the cloth of the lamb...for they be wolves...and wolves be footmen to the Beast..."
Kathleen Kent grew up listening to stories about her ancestor Martha Carrier, stories that had been passed down through the generations in her mother's family. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Heretic's Daughter, which tells the story of Martha Carrier's later life during the Salem witch trials. Kent is a tenth-generation descendant of Martha Carrier. She lives in Dallas. Visit her website.
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