The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances
It is 1618 in the German duchy of Württemberg. Plague is spreading, the Thirty Years’ War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler, an illiterate widow, is accused of being a witch.
Katharina is known for her herbal remedies and the success of her children. Her eldest, Johannes, is the Imperial Mathematician and the renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It’s enough to make anyone envious, and Katharina has done herself no favours by going out and about and being in everyone’s business.
So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of making her ill by offering her a bitter, witchy drink, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and neighbour Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets.
Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humour and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will both provoke and entertain. The story of how a community becomes implicated in collective aggression and hysterical fear is a tale for our time. Galchen’s bold new novel touchingly illuminates a family and a society undone by superstition, the state and the mortal convulsions of history.
Galchen's captivating latest (after the children's adventure Rat Rule 79) follows an illiterate widow as she confronts accusations of being a witch in 1618 Germany. As soldiers and plague spread across the Holy Roman Empire at the start of the Thirty Years' War, 74-year-old Katharina Kepler's own troubles play out on a grand scale after her neighbor (whom Katharina calls "the Werewolf") accuses Katharina of poisoning her and manages to convince others that they, too, have been afflicted or targeted by Katharina's witchcraft. Katharina must fight to clear her name with the help of her three children her youngest son, a bullheaded pewter guildsman; her daughter, a kindly pastor's wife; and her eldest son, an expert in horoscopes who works as the Imperial Mathematician and her kindly, quiet neighbor Simon, who documents Katharina's case for posterity and risks his own reputation by serving as Katharina's guardian in court. Mesmerizing details abound, such as the torture inflicted on those accused of witchcraft, and the herbal remedies Katharina relies upon. Galchen portrays her characters as complicated and full of wit as they face down the cruelties dealt to them (a man called "the Cabbage," demanding Katharina release a curse on his sister, threatens her with a "vain sword... something a nobleman might commission and then reject at the last moment, leaving the sword maker in a bind"). This is a resounding delight.