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Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

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The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances. The story begins in 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 is accused of being The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances. The story begins in 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 is accused of being a witch. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, who is the Imperial Mathematician and renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It's enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, 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 next-door neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets. Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will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 society and a family undone by superstition, the state, and the mortal convulsions of history.


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The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances. The story begins in 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 is accused of being The startling, witty, highly anticipated second novel from the critically acclaimed author of Atmospheric Disturbances. The story begins in 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 is accused of being a witch. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, who is the Imperial Mathematician and renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It's enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, 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 next-door neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets. Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, 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 society and a family undone by superstition, the state, and the mortal convulsions of history.

30 review for Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Walsh

    3.5 stars. I found the title very clever, but it was initially misleading. I mistakingly first assumed it was a modern YA novel about taunting and bullying in school and dismissed it. This week it was included in articles recommending books to be read this summer in Time magazine and MacLeans (Canada's national magazine). I learned it was a work of historical fiction based on fact by literary award-winning author Rivka Galchen, a Canadian/American writer. It is a fictionalized account of the ac 3.5 stars. I found the title very clever, but it was initially misleading. I mistakingly first assumed it was a modern YA novel about taunting and bullying in school and dismissed it. This week it was included in articles recommending books to be read this summer in Time magazine and MacLeans (Canada's national magazine). I learned it was a work of historical fiction based on fact by literary award-winning author Rivka Galchen, a Canadian/American writer. It is a fictionalized account of the actual witchcraft trial of Katharina Kepler, the 71-year-old mother of renowned royal court astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, still regarded today as one of the world's leading scientific minds. He left his work to lead the defence in his mother's trial but was concerned about how it would affect his professional reputation. The time is 1615, a time of turmoil in European history. It features a small Lutheran community within the Holy Roman Empire during religious tumult. The 30 Years' War is beginning, and a new, deadly plague is spreading that will kill many, including some of the characters in the story. Told with much humour and wit through Katharina's thoughts and conversations with family and a neighbour, it is an engaging read. It shows that long before social media existed, rumours and 'false news' had their strong adherents who would grasp the most bizarre story, insisting on its truth. Told with modern language and sensibility, it depicts Katarina as an elderly busybody, brash and outspoken, who has ridiculous nicknames for people who annoy or oppose her. She was a herbalist and healer. She is an elderly, illiterate woman accused of being a witch. She is a widow who loves her family and her sweet cow, Chamomile. She is accused of witchcraft by a deluded, spiteful woman and finds the charge silly, refusing to take it seriously. She has already raised some scorn and suspicion by wandering openly around town and not staying secluded in her home as was the custom of widows. News and rumours of the charge against Katharina spread like wildfire. Soon people who suffered pain, illness, death in the family, or injury and death to livestock blame Katharina for causing any misfortune they suffered in past decades through her witchcraft and communication with the devil. Many of the accusations were ridiculous, but those in power tended to believe them. The local authority was already responsible for the torture and execution of 8 witches that year in the area where Katharina was charged. She does not realize how much danger she faces. When she brings a lawsuit for libel and slander against her accusers, it worsens matters for her. The old woman's leg is chained to her cold prison cell wall, and her assets are seized to be used to pay for her upkeep. Those spreading falsehoods through envy and greed hope to acquire some of her property through their malicious claims. I found the actual trial confusing. Johannes Kepler, the famed scientist, is rarely mentioned in the story. We read he is preparing the defence of his mother, but in this story, another son, Hans, an astrologer, seems mostly engaged in the courtroom trial. Not sure if the narrator mistook him for the noted astronomer, but it seems like he was later attempting to publish some of his brother's scientific theories under his own name. I failed to understand the reason for diminishing Johannes Kepler's role. The characters are strongly written, quirky and memorable. The dialogue is often hilarious and gives a picture of a society under a time of terror and hardship. I learned there is a scholarly, illustrated book on the subject published in 2015 written by Ulinka Rublack, "the Astronomer and the Witch." I have already downloaded a copy as I am anxious to learn more about the society, customs, religious friction, and the witch trials. It is an intriguing era where magic and science clash.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Say what you will about Donald Trump’s fickle loyalties, he never abandoned the witches. Like Macbeth, he kept them on his mind throughout his calamitous reign. He never tired of whining that he was the victim of “the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!” But like so many of the former president’s historical memories — his marital fidelity, his election landslides — his position in the annals of witch hunts is somewhat exaggerated. Most people who didn’t pay someone to take the SA Say what you will about Donald Trump’s fickle loyalties, he never abandoned the witches. Like Macbeth, he kept them on his mind throughout his calamitous reign. He never tired of whining that he was the victim of “the Greatest and most Destructive Witch Hunt of all time!” But like so many of the former president’s historical memories — his marital fidelity, his election landslides — his position in the annals of witch hunts is somewhat exaggerated. Most people who didn’t pay someone to take the SATs for them know that Salem, Mass., was the scene of a far greater and more destructive witch hunt. During that infamous terror, which started in 1692, more than 200 people were accused of satanic activity, and 20 were executed. Even at their most puritanical, though, American colonists were amateurs compared with witch hunters in Europe. In the 16th and 17th centuries, tens of thousands of people — possibly hundreds of thousands — were killed for practicing witchcraft. The craze was particularly virulent in Germany, and the victims were usually older women, not reality-TV stars. In fact, most of those who were tortured, hanged and burned on the testimony of some superstitious neighbor or sadistic cleric are lost in the shadows of history. But in the early 1600s, in a German town called Leonberg, an illiterate widow named Katharina was arrested for sickening a fellow villager with a demonic potion. She was imprisoned for more than a year and threatened with torture before her son finally won her release. We know these details because Katharina’s son was Johannes Kepler. While defending his mom against a collection of witchy rumors, on the side he was revolutionizing the science of astronomy. That’s a good boy. To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    Available Now Johannes Kepler is known for discovering the three major laws of planetary motion, how planets orbit the sun. Lesser known, is the public defense he prepared to save his mother Katharina, a sixty eight year old illiterate widow who was accused of witchcraft in Leonberg, Germany. The year was 1615. In 1620, Kepler left his post as Imperial Mathematician to defend her during the Wurttenburg Witch Trials. Katharina Kepler, known for providing neighbors with herbal remedies for their ill Available Now Johannes Kepler is known for discovering the three major laws of planetary motion, how planets orbit the sun. Lesser known, is the public defense he prepared to save his mother Katharina, a sixty eight year old illiterate widow who was accused of witchcraft in Leonberg, Germany. The year was 1615. In 1620, Kepler left his post as Imperial Mathematician to defend her during the Wurttenburg Witch Trials. Katharina Kepler, known for providing neighbors with herbal remedies for their ills, had her nose in everyone's business. Her sharp tongued, brusque manner, coupled with the townspeople's envy of Johannes' success, was a recipe for trouble. It started when Ursula Reinbold accused Katharina of "...[using] very considerable dark powers to make [me] moan, weep, cringe, be barren...It was a poison she gave me-a witches brew." Katharina was summoned to appear before the newly installed ducal governor. Simon, Katharina's next door neighbor, would appear with her in the capacity of legal guardian. Should she file a complaint for slander? "One has to insist upon justice-it was the 'terrible incorrectness of the accusations'...the threat of torture and execution." Neighbor after neighbor added malicious rumors that included passing through locked doors and riding a goat backwards then cooking and eating it. "The people that accuse you, Katharina, are half-formed people...envious people". "...soon my expenses would soar, the revenue from my fields be frozen, the meager assets of my house seized." Katharina's daughter Greta, thought well of the world and everyone in it. "If we behave with grace, then they will behave with grace." Simon, Katharina's documentarian was worried. "I like to be unseen, in plain sight...since I am friend to Katharina that shadow has reached my doorstep." What troubled her the most? She was concerned about the well being of her faithful cow, Chamomile. Chamomile's needs were paramount. "Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch" by Rivka Galchen is the imagined rendering of the testimonies at the Witch Trial of Katharina Kepler. The reliability of witness accounts was affected by gossipmongers and the natural passage of time that might muddy recollections. Johannes Kepler was tormented with thoughts of being investigated. "...such overblown and ludicrous allegations could blight my fifteen years of imperial service...". It began with the "raving fantasies" of a local housewife...suspicion...baseless slander...superstition...and misunderstanding. What would be the outcome? A highly recommended tome. Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    The novel is achingly, vividly imagined, the narrative voice is smart and believable, the story is so interesting, and I loved it entirely. And yet I wanted something more. I'm not sure what I wanted. I think maybe I wanted the story to matter more. I wanted it to mean something more. I wanted it to be revelatory along with being exhilarating and damn-great. I wanted the narrator's experiences to build into something more profound than they did. I wanted her to make some deeper realization about The novel is achingly, vividly imagined, the narrative voice is smart and believable, the story is so interesting, and I loved it entirely. And yet I wanted something more. I'm not sure what I wanted. I think maybe I wanted the story to matter more. I wanted it to mean something more. I wanted it to be revelatory along with being exhilarating and damn-great. I wanted the narrator's experiences to build into something more profound than they did. I wanted her to make some deeper realization about life, about her life, than I could glean here. Maybe it's here and I missed it. I'm more than happy to imagine reading this delightful story again and to find in it deeper meanings. On this read there was something cruel and smug about the ending especially that made the novel just one small step from perfect. I've just spent a lot of words trying to explain the absence of something that would have made this book a masterpiece instead of being an incredibly great novel. What's here is so very good. Every sentence. Every word.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jersy

    I adore this book. It is unlike most other witch trial books: it isn't tense or overly dramatic and avoids the typical clichees of historical fiction. It doesn't read that historical at all, apart from keeping the circumstances and values of the people of that time, it is written pretty modern and relatable. And that fits so well, showing that we aren't that far away from this behaviour, that I didn't mind not beeing able the immerse myself into the time period. It's also super funny without dri I adore this book. It is unlike most other witch trial books: it isn't tense or overly dramatic and avoids the typical clichees of historical fiction. It doesn't read that historical at all, apart from keeping the circumstances and values of the people of that time, it is written pretty modern and relatable. And that fits so well, showing that we aren't that far away from this behaviour, that I didn't mind not beeing able the immerse myself into the time period. It's also super funny without drifting into a comedy, the feelings and motives of the characters are still front and center, and the characters became very dear to me. I also love how scenes from the trial are sprinkled throughout the book instead of putting it at the end, I think it puts things into perspective.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is my last read for the Tournament of Books Camp ToB, and I think this is my favorite, although none were five-star reads for me. Johannes Kepler is known for his astronomy discoveries but the context of that work is the era of the plague, and people not understanding disease, much less the universe. His mother Katharina is accused of being a witch in her old age and this is the (fictionalized) story of the trial, largely told through testimonies of her neighbors, who looking back now blame This is my last read for the Tournament of Books Camp ToB, and I think this is my favorite, although none were five-star reads for me. Johannes Kepler is known for his astronomy discoveries but the context of that work is the era of the plague, and people not understanding disease, much less the universe. His mother Katharina is accused of being a witch in her old age and this is the (fictionalized) story of the trial, largely told through testimonies of her neighbors, who looking back now blame all ailments, failures, and deaths on her. There are also letters from Katharina to her son and others. It is historical fiction, recentering a female character, with some humor and conjecture. The ending was rather fun. The audiobook is narrated by Natasha Soudek she does a lot of different voices for the characters. And kudos to me for making it through a historical fiction novel, which is just usually not my thing. 🥴

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mélanie

    4/5 Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch was surprisingly good! EKYMIAW is based on the real story of Katharina Kepler, mother to the astronomer Johannes Kepler. She was accused of being a witch in the 1610s, and this book explores how the events leading up to her arrest could have happened. The story is told using "storytelling" style narration (Dolores Claiborne style), letters, and court transcri 4/5 Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch was surprisingly good! EKYMIAW is based on the real story of Katharina Kepler, mother to the astronomer Johannes Kepler. She was accused of being a witch in the 1610s, and this book explores how the events leading up to her arrest could have happened. The story is told using "storytelling" style narration (Dolores Claiborne style), letters, and court transcripts, which was great to get a glimpse at more than one perspective. While the pace was rather slow, the characters kept me interested in most of the book. Here's a little glimpse of the two main narrators. Katharina Kepler is great. Not only does she love her cow Chamomile more than anything in the world (I mean, how could you not like a cow named Chamomile?), but she is also unbothered by the opinions others might have of her. She's a funny and simple seventy-something year old woman. Simon is Katharina's neighbour and friend. He's as introverted as can be, and he's an absolute mood. He hates being the center of attention, he likes being just another unknown person, and yet, he manages to get along with the slightly eccentric Katharina Kepler. They're a great duo, and I loved reading this story because of it. All in all, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a light read with not much action, but it does have likeable characters who make the book worth it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Will

    4.5 ”Do you understand that any false testimony you knowingly give will provoke God’s great anger in your earthly life and will deliver your soul unto Satan upon your death?” So begins each deposition, a question translated from the original trial, for the charges of witchcraft made against the elderly Katharina Kepler, mother of the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. Rivka Galchen’s Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a fictionalized version of those actual events. Accusations of witchcraft 4.5 ”Do you understand that any false testimony you knowingly give will provoke God’s great anger in your earthly life and will deliver your soul unto Satan upon your death?” So begins each deposition, a question translated from the original trial, for the charges of witchcraft made against the elderly Katharina Kepler, mother of the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. Rivka Galchen’s Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a fictionalized version of those actual events. Accusations of witchcraft can be a sturdy literary vehicle for holding a mirror up to society. Arthur Miller did it in The Crucible, an allegory for McCarthyism. Rivka Galchen’s novel is certainly relevant to our current ‘Trumpian times’ where meanness has become not only acceptable but rewarded, and accumulating lies are shamelessly used for personal gain. Preparing the defense for his mother Johannes writes: ”…a carefully drafted, detailed story of a town populated with liars and fools, with selfishness and stupidity…Fools, braggarts, and purse-grabbers has caused his mother’s misery. Corruption, laziness, and malice.” It does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Oh, and lest I forget, there is also a plague. If there is any witchery going on here it is Galchen conjuring up some gorgeous prose and infusing a tragic story with her well-known intelligence and humor. This is a dark tale but, yes, it is often very funny with Galchen sometimes modernizes the language for comic effect. In one case a witness answered the opening question above with “If you say so, okay” which I doubt would be a reply made in 1618 but nevertheless gave me a chuckle. She is also marvelous at depicting the absurdities in society. Overall, I found this to be a smart, exquisitely written, and entertaining read. It has been 13 years since I’ve read and loved Galchen’s novel Atmospheric Disturbances and I find myself strongly tempted to reread it. My memory is of a unique writer and if I thought her a bit strange or odd at the time, it was a wonderful oddness that worked very well for me and still does.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison Hardtmann

    I try my best to like people.To expect good from them. If you see someone as a monster, it is as good as attaching a real horn to them and poking them with a hot metal poker. I really do think so. In order to avoid turning people into monsters by suspecting them of being monsters, I do my best to keep mostly to myself. In 1618, as the Thirty Years' War gets going, plague is a constant threat and life is generally harsh, an elderly woman living in a small town in what is now Germany is accused of I try my best to like people.To expect good from them. If you see someone as a monster, it is as good as attaching a real horn to them and poking them with a hot metal poker. I really do think so. In order to avoid turning people into monsters by suspecting them of being monsters, I do my best to keep mostly to myself. In 1618, as the Thirty Years' War gets going, plague is a constant threat and life is generally harsh, an elderly woman living in a small town in what is now Germany is accused of witchcraft. An unremarkable occurrence, but in this case the woman's son is Johannes Kepler -- astronomer, mathematician and a key player in the scientific revolution. From this historical tidbit, Rivka Galchen has written this novel. Katharina Kepler is a woman who has survived to old age, supporting herself and quietly living her life. She loves her garden and Chamomile, her cow. When she is accused, she goes for help to her neighbor who is both a man and literate, who carefully helps her write down her defense. But the odds aren't in her favor, despite the help of her adult children. Galchen has written a wonderful novel that is a character study of Katharina and her neighbor as well as a portrait of daily life at a time of turmoil and scarcity. She manages that difficult balance, of making her characters fully inhabit their time and place and of making them feel like real people.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Rivka Galchen's Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a work of fiction based on the real world witchcraft trial of Katharina Kepler, mother of the ground-breaking astronomer Johannes Kepler. Two rather well-known works of nonfiction documenting this event have been published: James A. Connor's Kepler's Witch (2004) and Ulinka Rublack's The Astronomer and the Witch (2015). Galchen credits the second of those titles as the inspiration for her novel. Galchen worked with a broad body of historic Rivka Galchen's Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a work of fiction based on the real world witchcraft trial of Katharina Kepler, mother of the ground-breaking astronomer Johannes Kepler. Two rather well-known works of nonfiction documenting this event have been published: James A. Connor's Kepler's Witch (2004) and Ulinka Rublack's The Astronomer and the Witch (2015). Galchen credits the second of those titles as the inspiration for her novel. Galchen worked with a broad body of historical works in writing her novel, but makes it very clear that she is writing fiction that uses a real-world event as a jumping off point. Her novel is not narrativized history. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch offers a simultaneously absurd, disturbing, and thought-provoking reading experience. The absurdity comes from Galchen's depiction of Katherina, who she pictures as an opinionated, cantankerous, but warm-hearted, women. Much of the book is written in Katherina's voice, and Katherina's description of a daughter in law and of her astronomer son give a taste of this. Of the daughter in law, married to another of Katherina's sons, and who has a taste for the kind of scandalous pamphlets that were that day's equivalent of the scandal-sheets we see at grocery check-out lines: "Gertie loved to hear about the miser whose heart was found in a chest with his jewels after he died. About the holy nun who married the Moor who kidnapped her. She'll read any pamphlet she can get. It makes me not mind that I can't read myself." Of Johannes: "he's made his way in the world the easy way, through his studies." Katharina loves her children, but she seems to love her cow Chamomile every bit as much. The lengthy sections in Katharina's voice are accompanied by a narrative in the voice of a mild-mannered, controversy-averse neighbor who plays the role of Katharina's legal guardian, as women were not allowed to represent themselves in legal proceedings. (There was a neighbor who had this role in real-life, but Galchen makes it clear that her version of the neighbor is completely fictive.) Like Katharina, Simon, the neighbor, has a wry way of putting things. Describing himself listening to the drunken ramblings of Katherina's son Christoph, Simon notes "I said nothing. If there were a guild of non-sayers, that would be my guild. That's also the guild of standing by." As one reads and as the accusations against Katharina grow in number and unlikelihood, the narrative becomes disturbing. Clearly some of those accusing Katharina have ulterior motives: they hope to be awarded parts of her land or a financial payout if Katharina is convicted. Others seem absolutely genuine in their accusations, which are often memories of past events they didn't note at the time. In this world, correlation equals causation, even if the things being correlated are only dimly remembered. What can Katharina do to defend herself when anyone can suddenly recall seeing her just before a horse went lame, their children became sick, or they broke out in a rash? This leads me to what I found to be a particularly thought-provoking aspect of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch. What is it like to live in a world where witchcraft is seen as a more likely cause of suffering than ill luck? To what extent do accusers sincerely believe they are protecting their community? To what extent are they actually clamoring for a role in the public spectacle a witchcraft trial becomes? Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch offers a compelling read that rewards in multiple ways. Any lover of well-crafted plot- and character-driven driven fiction should appreciate it. And it may lead some readers to Connor and Rublack's books to explore the history behind Galchen's tale. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    Katharina Kepler is a spunky, down-to-earth, no-nonsense widowed grandmother who has raised successful children while managing her property and livestock very well despite having an absentee husband early in life. I found her instantly loveable and funny - she’s wise, witty, and sharp for her age -- her internal reflections and observations made me chuckle at times. The author instantly transplants the reader into Katharina's world - rural Germany in the early 1600’s. This is an age in which reli Katharina Kepler is a spunky, down-to-earth, no-nonsense widowed grandmother who has raised successful children while managing her property and livestock very well despite having an absentee husband early in life. I found her instantly loveable and funny - she’s wise, witty, and sharp for her age -- her internal reflections and observations made me chuckle at times. The author instantly transplants the reader into Katharina's world - rural Germany in the early 1600’s. This is an age in which religious doctrine controls an impoverished, paranoid, patriarchal society -- where imaginations (steeped in superstition) are vivid; where justice for commonfolk is slow and elusive. It is a landscape that sowed greed, envy, and vengeance and reaped a myriad of unproven accusations of witchcraft against an elderly woman of means where Katharina, the accused, could lose her life and livelihood defending against such claims while the accusers (including court officials) could gain her wealth and property as retribution. She’s accused of killing livestock, causing aches and pains, issuing curses, infanticide, and murder (by death) -- many of these witnesses experienced such afflictions and offenses decades earlier! Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres and this book is an impressive combination of actual persons, imagined characters, authentic missives, courtroom testimonies, and actual events. While this could have easily morphed into a slogfest of sorts; I found this to be a delightful read that moved quickly for me. I really enjoyed how the author told the story. I also learned a bit about the era’s laws and (lack of) due process, the posture/teachings of the Church during this period, and Johannes Kepler’s famed political appointments, involvement in his mother’s trial, and hints surrounding his (at the time) seemingly underappreciated scientific contributions. The cast of characters is also well-formed and full-bodied -- motivations were clearly presented. I very much appreciated the closure she offered not only for Katharina, but also to her extended family members mentioned in the novel, including Katharina’s legal guardian, and even Chamomile, her beloved cow. A nice lagniappe for meticulous readers!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    Katharina Kepler has to be one of my favorite characters in literature. She is a tart, blunt-spoken 74 year old, and a keen and witty observer of her fellow townspeople. If she lived in 2019 instead of 1619 she’d be a stand-up comic in the Joan Rivers mold. Needless to say, with a temperament like that, she makes more enemies than friends in her small town, and this, combined with her relative affluence, successful children, and interest in herbal medicine, makes her a perfect target for witch-b Katharina Kepler has to be one of my favorite characters in literature. She is a tart, blunt-spoken 74 year old, and a keen and witty observer of her fellow townspeople. If she lived in 2019 instead of 1619 she’d be a stand-up comic in the Joan Rivers mold. Needless to say, with a temperament like that, she makes more enemies than friends in her small town, and this, combined with her relative affluence, successful children, and interest in herbal medicine, makes her a perfect target for witch-baiting. Katherina is illiterate, but she dictates her story to her kindly neighbor Simon, and her story is supplemented with testimony from her accusers, and observations from Simon himself. While I can't help but focus on her humor, the book itself is more than just a stage for Katharina to be Katharina. It's the kind of historical novel I love, where the historical period feels both archaic and contemporary, all at the same time. Which explains the title, which seemed oddly 'YA'- ish, until I finished the novel and discovered that it's exactly the kind of thing Katharina would say - and in fact she does. While Katharina delighted me, I was also touched by the poignancy of her journey, and the ways it ultimately changed her. PS: I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't realize her son Hans the Astrologer (he of the silver fork, see below) was the astronomer Johannes Kepler until I read it in the author's note at the end of the book. Katharina was his mother in real life, although her personality is all Galchen's. And now, examples of why I love Katharina's voice so much, starting with her observations of a couple of townspeople: “The marksman’s wife is generally respected, though she has the overexpressive hands of a busybody and I’ve never seen her laugh.” “Everyone knows Wallpurga tells fortunes by measuring heads - a superstitious and unlawful practice, which, besides, she is no good at.” This is Katharina’s description of a scene where she and her accuser, Ursula, meet with the local governor to air their grievances: “What I want to say is that Ursula’s brother the Cabbage was there with her. He was wearing a green hunting cape, and his posture was poor, and his cheeks were red. Behind him was the whiskered ducal governor Einhorn, unkempt, and with a spotted spaniel in his arms. They smelled of drink. The crowd of them looked like a pack of dull troubadours who, come morning, have made off with all the butter.” This exchange with her son, Hans, gives a little outside window into Katharina. He had a slice of apple on a tiny fancy spear of some sort. ‘What is that toy you’re holding?” “It’s a fork. And I know you know it’s a fork.” “It looks like the tail of a devil,” I said. “Not in a bad way.” “You’re going to give me trouble about my fork?” “When did that happen?” “The fork?” “Your gray beard.” “Mama, you are...unrelenting.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    I'm not sad that I spent time with this book, but I also didn't feel that I experienced anything new or profound with it. It's the tried & true story of a woman being accused of being a witch, and all that befalls her and her family and the larger community as a result. There are no surprising plot twists; nothing occurs that is out-of-the-ordinary in a witch accusation/trial story. The setting is a region of Germany during the early 1600s. The story is told through a combination of first-person I'm not sad that I spent time with this book, but I also didn't feel that I experienced anything new or profound with it. It's the tried & true story of a woman being accused of being a witch, and all that befalls her and her family and the larger community as a result. There are no surprising plot twists; nothing occurs that is out-of-the-ordinary in a witch accusation/trial story. The setting is a region of Germany during the early 1600s. The story is told through a combination of first-person narrative, letters, and deposition testimony. From the author's Acknowledgements, I understand the novel is based on a true story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Note: This book was read as part of Camp TOB. Everyone knows Frau Kepler is a witch: Her husband disappeared in the war. Her children are exceptionally gifted. She walks around as if she owns the place and she might as well as many owe her money. Between her unnannounced visits, her dispensing of unwelcomed advice and the fervor with which she defends herself during disputes, Frau Kepler has put off quite a few people. Add to this that the country is in the middle of a 30 year war. There is devastion Note: This book was read as part of Camp TOB. Everyone knows Frau Kepler is a witch: Her husband disappeared in the war. Her children are exceptionally gifted. She walks around as if she owns the place and she might as well as many owe her money. Between her unnannounced visits, her dispensing of unwelcomed advice and the fervor with which she defends herself during disputes, Frau Kepler has put off quite a few people. Add to this that the country is in the middle of a 30 year war. There is devastion and loss through casualty and through disease. The villages are ravaged and burdened by an ongoing economic crisis. People are scared and looking for someone to blame. Katharina Kepler fits the bill and it does not help that her son's book , The Dream -- the world's first science fiction book depicts the Earth spinning around the sun -- also casts her as a sorcerer. The simple villagers could not accept that the Earth was not the center of our universe. Nor could they separate the fact from the fiction in his work. Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch reads like a court case thriller with Johannes Kepler at its helm defending his mother against witchcraft. If you are reading this as a thriller fan, there are no surprises here. The history has already been written. But it is an interesting tale that is sure to intrigue scientists and history buffs alike.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    This is such a uniquely-imagined book and I absolutely loved it. It is based on the true story of the 17th-C scientist/astronomer, Johannes Kepler, and his mother (who was accused of being a witch). It raises and explores all the issues we'd expect of historical fiction about witch-hunting and the community, social, and legal circumstances surrounding the trial and persecution of witches. I dunno if it's just me, but a novel published in 2021 that chooses witch-hunting as its central topic can't This is such a uniquely-imagined book and I absolutely loved it. It is based on the true story of the 17th-C scientist/astronomer, Johannes Kepler, and his mother (who was accused of being a witch). It raises and explores all the issues we'd expect of historical fiction about witch-hunting and the community, social, and legal circumstances surrounding the trial and persecution of witches. I dunno if it's just me, but a novel published in 2021 that chooses witch-hunting as its central topic can't be about anything but the current political environment and the demise of democracy, right? I reflected on how, if it had been published prior to 2016, this novel would have been read, or even, been written. The themes and tropes – bullying and scapegoating; truth and facts, and their investigation, presentation and acceptance; susceptibility to groupthink, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories; the lure of blaming the outcast, the odd, the old, the disempowered (especially odd, old, and outspoken women) for one's own misfortunes; greed, envy and ignorance; science and rationalism versus dogma and superstition; political corruption, ineptitude, and the role/control of the media – it's all in here, and more. I suppose one can talk about all that and many novelists have (I'm thinking in particular of James Morrow's The Last Witchfinder which explored similar territory, albeit took a more fantastical turn) and have it sit outside, or only tangentially alongside, any overt political context or commentary. But not anymore I don't think; certainly not here. What Galchen does so brilliantly well is create a tone of voice that shreds any illusion we might have that this is traditional historical fiction, or anything but a deliberate critique of contemporary political currents. This sets up a delightful double-layered experience for the reader. We get a fascinating story based on true events and the real people who experienced them 400 years ago AND we get a scathing, present-day allegory illustrating how far we've (not) come. The other thing Galchen does so well is that she humanizes Katharina Kepler fully and non-sentimentally. First, she focuses the story on her and not on her famous son. In real life, as the story goes, Johannes' success and the villagers' jealousy of Katharina motivated the accusations against her. And, Johannes played a central role in defending his mother against the charges. These two elements are present but very much in the background here. Second, once she's established her focus, Galchen creates a nuanced portrait of Katharina, warts and all. She doesn't place her in the traditional role of unjustly-accused victim. She shows her to be unconventional, abrasive, a nosy busy-body given to walking in to her neighbours' homes unannounced and dispensing unasked-for advice and herbal remedies. She also shows her to be brave, a kind friend, a loving mother and grandmother, self-sufficient, and a no-nonsense, confident, accomplished entrepreneur in a way that couldn't but have ruffled people's feathers of how women, especially widows, ought to behave. Then and maybe even now. I loved Katharina, and I loved how she had to tell her story second-hand to her neighbour, Simon, who stands by her (view spoiler)[mostly (hide spoiler)] , opening up another dimension to the theme of truth-telling. Whose truth? Who gets to tell it? Who gets to be believed? How are we to evaluate its veracity? As with so many books I consume by audio, I do wonder how it translates on the page/with eyes and what role the AMAZING narrator, Natasha Soudek, played in taking this novel to a whole-hearted 5-star experience for me. Highly recommended. So funny, so deep, and so well-executed. Definitely a contender for one of the best of 2021 for me and I really hope it ends up in next year's Tournament of Books.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Gibbs

    Darkly funny, tinged with a sort of existential resignation or exhaustion. Definitely strange. A clever satire (Witch hunts! Moral panic!) based on a true story from the 1600’s, that is of course relevant to the current state of the world. Unconventional older woman dismissive of her accusers, small town nosiness, mob mentalities & belief in misinformation taking hold during a time of fear & ignorance.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maja Steyn

    I went into this book with almost no expectations. As research for my own novel, I’ve been actively looking for books based on witch hunts in history, so the title was enough to make me pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly, I found the history it’s based on very interesting. It takes place in Germany in the 17th century and centres around Katharina Kepler and how she got accused of witchcraft. She was the mother of astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician Johannes Kepler. Secondly, I I went into this book with almost no expectations. As research for my own novel, I’ve been actively looking for books based on witch hunts in history, so the title was enough to make me pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly, I found the history it’s based on very interesting. It takes place in Germany in the 17th century and centres around Katharina Kepler and how she got accused of witchcraft. She was the mother of astronomer, astrologer, and mathematician Johannes Kepler. Secondly, I really enjoyed the sense of humour. Katharina is clever and witty, and the court transcripts were entertaining, too. Yet, the humour in no way makes light of the issues and is rather used as a tool to deliver commentary on that dark time in history, as well as on society and human nature in general. Despite the title and Johannes Kepler’s fame, this is very much Katharina’s story, and Rivka Galchen did a great job telling it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Beggarly

    Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. This is such a smart and playful book. In Germany, 1618, an elderly woman named Katharina is accused by a woman in her town of being a witch and making her ill. Based on what happened to the mother of mathematician Johannes Kepler, but very much a wonderfully satirical and biting fiction. The book is made up of Katharina telling her life story as she can’t believe the nightmare that she’s found herself in and by the imagined court testimony of a town wh Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for the ebook. This is such a smart and playful book. In Germany, 1618, an elderly woman named Katharina is accused by a woman in her town of being a witch and making her ill. Based on what happened to the mother of mathematician Johannes Kepler, but very much a wonderfully satirical and biting fiction. The book is made up of Katharina telling her life story as she can’t believe the nightmare that she’s found herself in and by the imagined court testimony of a town who is filled with jealousy for a woman having such a famous son. Not only is this novel accessible, but also mirrors our own times in many ways.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐈 𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡, 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡, 𝐚𝐦 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐧𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐞𝐬. Katherina Kepler was the mother of Johannes Kepler, Imperial Mathematician and one of history’s most important astronomers. Johannes discovered three major laws of planetary motion but he had many achievements, based in astrology and theology. He understood optics, light, and why eyeglasses work. Johannes is a fascin via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 𝐈 𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡, 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡, 𝐚𝐦 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐧𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞, 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐞𝐬. Katherina Kepler was the mother of Johannes Kepler, Imperial Mathematician and one of history’s most important astronomers. Johannes discovered three major laws of planetary motion but he had many achievements, based in astrology and theology. He understood optics, light, and why eyeglasses work. Johannes is a fascinating subject to research but it is the persecution his mother faced when she was swallowed by the hysteria of witchcraft that left its mark on him. It is also the subject of this historical fiction, based on facts. 1618 Leonberg, Germany Katherina Kepler has been summoned and accused of being a witch. She doesn’t take it seriously, an old woman like her who has lived through so much, and shrugging it off is only to her detriment. In fact, it’s laughable to even imagine that she has used her dark arts to curse silly Ursula Reinbold (who Katherina calls the werewolf). Ursula, whose misfortune, very illness is laid at Katherina’s feet. Ursula, her envious enemy and a liar but it is the many “half-formed people” who are swayed by ridiculous, unreal charges. The years have been difficult, and with failing crops, illnesses, and no end to miseries people turn to superstitions. Sure, she is a gossip and a meddler, with a mean mouth maybe but a murdering witch she is not. Her own complaint against Urusla and her husband, the glazier is turned against Katherina into a criminal case. Katerina’s forthright manner, her lack of boundaries, the herb and flower concoctions she dispenses only serve to muddy her innocence. Even her kind neighbor, an old widower, knows her to be a handful. When those who have dealings with her, neighbors, friends and foe alike, are called to give testimony even the most harmless of incidents grow into tales of bedevilment. Why, exactly, did she want her dead father’s skull dug up? When her son Hans isn’t quick to respond to a letter, hoping he will stand by her, she fears too what it will do to his place in life, his important work. I looked up Johannes and read that his life was full of sorrows during this time too. Soon, people who did her a turn of kindness come forward, brimming with resentment. Locals are suddenly remembering wild behavior, and fury, lack of humility in their interactions with her. Each has their own “come to think of it” moments, that make her suspect. How can anyone defend such marks against their character? Character assassination grows into a beast, and suddenly she is to blame for every terrible thing that has ever happened, regardless of how insignificant. All the bad luck is due to a witch in their midst. Katherina is brazen, one who doesn’t shrink into herself, always an unwelcome attribute in a woman, especially in 1619. Too bold, too meddlesome, asking for it- punishment. We get an earful of why she is guilty and the truth, as she tells it, of her innocence. One thing that stuck with me, much like news and gossip, all you need to do is bend one ear to your way of thinking to start a fire in someone’s life, to burn them at the stake. That it is based on a real person is horrifying, it’s so easy to ruin another and the law, in those times as in modern ones, certainly weren’t running on logic. Can you challenge stupidity, when it’s current state of affairs? A solid, historical fiction. Intelligently written and well researched. Publication Date: June 8, 2021 Farrar, Straus and Giroux

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara G

    I have been waiting for a new novel by Rivka Galchen since I read her debut, Atmospheric Disturbances, in 2008. Atmospheric Disturbances had the humor, complexity, and strangeness of Pynchon and the unsettling ambience of Cortazar. Over the years, I’ve recommended it widely. It’s my go-to any time someone says “it’s not that I intentionally don’t read women writers, women just don’t write the type of books I like to read.” Her second novel is quite different, but maintains the wit and postmodern I have been waiting for a new novel by Rivka Galchen since I read her debut, Atmospheric Disturbances, in 2008. Atmospheric Disturbances had the humor, complexity, and strangeness of Pynchon and the unsettling ambience of Cortazar. Over the years, I’ve recommended it widely. It’s my go-to any time someone says “it’s not that I intentionally don’t read women writers, women just don’t write the type of books I like to read.” Her second novel is quite different, but maintains the wit and postmodern playfulness of her prior work. Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch is best described as historical fiction. Galchen draws on primary and secondary sources to reconstruct the accusation and trial of one unlucky woman in 1600s Germany. Katharina is suspected of witchcraft for the usual reasons: she is independent, outspoken, and old. Europe is creeping from the Reformation towards the Enlightenment, its progress hindered by plague and impending war. The science community is starting to realize that there is more to the universe than humans have previously understood, but they have not yet articulated their theories in a way the layperson can understand. Astronomy and astrology are the same field, and kings make political decisions based on their star charts. A woman sharing home remedies for gout, however, is liable to be tortured for her work. Katharina is at the epicenter of these competing forces, the mother of the Royal Astronomer, but also a resident of a small, backwards town. Galchen tells Katharina’s story through a variety of narrators and documents. The primary narrative device is Katharina’s testimony, as dictated to her neighbor and friend Simon. Katharina is illiterate and a mere woman, so she depends upon Simon to act as her legal guardian and also to transcribe her tale. Simon intersperses his own monologues, trying to justify how he came to be one of the sole defendants of a witch. Galchen also utilizes letters (based on real letters), trial records, and depositions. The depositions from Katharina’s neighbors are a mix of literal translation from historic documents and creative modernization by Galchen. The depositions give each townsfolk a chance to say in their own words how they came to realize that Katharina is or isn’t a witch, or to try and remove themselves from the drama altogether. Together they provide a taxonomy of the reasons for going along with a conspiracy theory. One might describe this book as timely, but the psychology of othering and paranoia has been “timely” since at least 1618 when the real Katharina was first accused. “‘People are too stupid,’ Suze said, which of course was unbecoming, if correct.” I don’t know why Kafkaesque bureaucracy lends itself so well to humor, but it does, and this novel reads like a hilarious Michael Kohlhaas. Katharina is a delightfully snarky narrator. Introducing her accusers, she writes: “Ursula has no children, looks like a comely werewolf, and is married to a third-rate glazier. It’s her second marriage. Two of Ursula’s brothers, to my great misfortune, have come up in the world. One serves as a barber-surgeon to the Duke of Württemberg, the other as Forest Administrator here in Leonberg. The barber I call the Barber. The Forest Administrator, Urban Kräutlin, I call the Cabbage. It suits him, right?” She describes the Ducal Governor as “an unwell river otter in a doublet.” Her tying of medieval concerns with modern dialogue creates a layer of irony that prevents the bleakness of Katharina’s world from overwhelming the reader. Despite her modern approach to dialogue, Galchen does not commit the sin of transforming the characters into modern people, but instead lets them be weird to us both due to their historicity and also as individuals. These subtle layers of humor--witty dialogue, bureaucratic shenanigans, dramatic irony, and quirky characters--stack up in the novel the same way the various narrative devices stack up to create a delightful yet complex work. I dislike judging a book for what it is not rather than what it is, but I’m just a reader giving my opinion on Goodreads of all places, so I’ll allow myself the indulgence of a subjective opinion. While I enjoyed the novel, I kept wishing for something closer to Atmospheric Disturbances. The historical rigor means dry plot points such as “I moved in with my son” and “then I moved in with my daughter-in-law.” The redundancy in Katharina’s travails were as wearying for this reader as they appeared to be for her guardian Simon. I wanted more of a sense of adventure, of pushing against the bounds of narrative and history. I wanted to be able to spend decades recommending this book the way I have with Galchen’s previous work. Instead “all I got” was a great read that I chuckled my way through.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Myers

    I am a huge historical fiction fan and picked up this book eager for some delving into the historical moment and exploration of gender, magic, religion, and power. I was disappointed on all counts. Broken into court transcripts, conversations, and something akin to journal entries (actual audience of these? unknown.) the story moves forward at a snail's pace and offers multiple perspectives but no depth. The history, too, is just there - background but nothing more. A lot felt anachronistic, par I am a huge historical fiction fan and picked up this book eager for some delving into the historical moment and exploration of gender, magic, religion, and power. I was disappointed on all counts. Broken into court transcripts, conversations, and something akin to journal entries (actual audience of these? unknown.) the story moves forward at a snail's pace and offers multiple perspectives but no depth. The history, too, is just there - background but nothing more. A lot felt anachronistic, particularly some of the phrasing, with no effort to use metaphor or imagery that would be true to how a person of that time might imagine or think. Very disappointing.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    ***I received an advanced e-copy of the book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review This book, based on the true story of Katharina Kepler, tells of how she was accused and tried as a witch in Leonberg, Germany. She was accused by Ursula Reinbold of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that made her sick. The book is filled with testimonies of other preposterous claims from other villagers, for things Katharina supposedly did, which caused them or their livestock harm. This was a fascina ***I received an advanced e-copy of the book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review This book, based on the true story of Katharina Kepler, tells of how she was accused and tried as a witch in Leonberg, Germany. She was accused by Ursula Reinbold of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that made her sick. The book is filled with testimonies of other preposterous claims from other villagers, for things Katharina supposedly did, which caused them or their livestock harm. This was a fascinating look into the past, to see how easily a woman could be accused and tried for being a witch. I highly recommend this one!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I was well into reading this when I thought, “Wait a minute, Hans Kepler, Astronomer Royal?” I did a quick check online and discovered that this novel is based on a real-life event, that 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler, he of the laws of planetary motion, actually had to defend his mother against charges of witchcraft, with her at risk of hideous, grisly tortures and death. I hadn’t realized going in that this had actually happened. In the afterword, the author mentions the historical tr I was well into reading this when I thought, “Wait a minute, Hans Kepler, Astronomer Royal?” I did a quick check online and discovered that this novel is based on a real-life event, that 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler, he of the laws of planetary motion, actually had to defend his mother against charges of witchcraft, with her at risk of hideous, grisly tortures and death. I hadn’t realized going in that this had actually happened. In the afterword, the author mentions the historical trial documents she had access to and the many reference works she consulted for historical research. But her real accomplishment is the imaginative one, recreating German village life and the thoughts and feelings of the principal characters. Katharina Kepler is an illiterate widow, accused by villagers of being a witch. The specific accusations are, of course, ludicrous to modern eyes: riding a goat backwards, looking funny at someone and causing sharp leg pains (sounds like sciatica to me),etc., etc. But of course the mortal danger was terribly real. The book was billed by one critic I read as being hilarious along Monty Python lines, but I didn’t see that. It was laced with sharp and wry humour, but was underneath profoundly sad. An older woman, proud of her children (too proud for her neighbours’ taste?) who had done well for themselves and raised the family from poverty. Envious, spiteful neighbours who potentially had much to gain from the charges (namely, the confiscation of property and award of damages). A rotten legal system that beggared Katharina just to defend herself. This personal story is set among greater world events—the launch of the 30 Years’ War and the relentless advance of the Black Death—but it’s the personal that has the greater resonance: Katharina’s feelings of anger and betrayal, though, in my opinion, surprisingly short on fear. The contrasts were ever-present: that Kepler was making scientific strides while being forced to devote much time and effort to his mother’s defence on such ludicrous charges; that he had fame and grandiose titles but was rarely paid, leaving him financially strapped; that his books were eagerly sought after in some quarters but needed to be traded under the table, as some of his scientific observations put him at great personal risk. (Remember Galileo?) But it’s Katharina’s plight that is front and centre and will last longest in my mind.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Peyton

    I’d managed births and baptisms almost entirely on my own. I’d managed the fields without a cart or horse or even a donkey. I had offered help to others when I could, and even when I couldn’t. I had felt the terrible pride that the good that had come to me through my children was a reward for my own labours. Though I had often contemplated how and when I would die, I had been certain my death would be a happy one. I had not always felt so open to death, but once I had seen each of the children s I’d managed births and baptisms almost entirely on my own. I’d managed the fields without a cart or horse or even a donkey. I had offered help to others when I could, and even when I couldn’t. I had felt the terrible pride that the good that had come to me through my children was a reward for my own labours. Though I had often contemplated how and when I would die, I had been certain my death would be a happy one. I had not always felt so open to death, but once I had seen each of the children stepping into their adult lives, married, working, I sometimes pictured death as a package that would be left at my doorstep, that I would step into the gift box and that would be my gentle end. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a delightfully unconventional work of historical fiction set in a small town in Germany in the early 17th Century and told through the alternating testimony of the illiterate protagonist Katharina Kepler, the commentary of her literate neighbour Simon, and various letters and court documents. Katharina is a septuagenarian who has been accused of magically causing illnesses and injuries to her neighbours and their livestock. Being both pacifistic and opposed to superstition, Katharina rebukes her accusers, only to find that the bureaucratic nightmare of the impending Thirty Years War has left the courts eager to resolve claims by any means necessary. Several recent releases about the witch trials, both fiction and nonfiction, have left a bad taste in my mouth through their perpetuation of the myth that the people killed in the witch trials were actual ‘witches’. I find it disappointing that modern day people are so willing to believe and perpetuate false accusations made against marginalized women who were murdered centuries ago, and purely because they find the content of the accusations cool and interesting. Galchen’s novel is a refreshing departure from this trend in so clearly emphasizing the facts and the senselessness of the violence. Galchen includes an afterword in which she explains the historical basis of Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch. It was very interesting to learn about the real life person who inspired the character of Simon. Galchen’s Katharina reminds me of my late grandmother in lots of little ways and it was wonderful to read a book that captures her type of personality so well. I would have bought my grandmother a copy of this book if she were still alive as I think she would have really enjoyed it herself. I absolutely love this book and would recommend it to anybody.

  25. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    How have I not heard more about Canadian author Rivka Galchen before now?!?! This is her second novel and features one of the most witty and sarcastic characters I've read in such a long time! Based on true events, this is a fictionalized account of Johannes Kepler's 73 year old mother Katharina Kepler who gets accused and put on trial for witchcraft in 1615 Germany. Poor Katharina just wants to live a quiet life tending to her cows, doling out herbal remedies to her neighbors and basking in pri How have I not heard more about Canadian author Rivka Galchen before now?!?! This is her second novel and features one of the most witty and sarcastic characters I've read in such a long time! Based on true events, this is a fictionalized account of Johannes Kepler's 73 year old mother Katharina Kepler who gets accused and put on trial for witchcraft in 1615 Germany. Poor Katharina just wants to live a quiet life tending to her cows, doling out herbal remedies to her neighbors and basking in pride over her successful children but alas this is not what fate has in store when a neighbor claims she gave her a 'witchy drink' that made her sick. Galchen does an amazing job portraying how ridiculous the witch trials were while at the same time having life and death consequences. I loved all of the characters in this book with their snarky, tongue in cheek comments and how well written small town community life was portrayed (not much has changed really in over 400 years). Natasha Soudek does an INCREDIBLE job narrating the story and I would highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of this book. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of reading something by Rivka Galchen rush out to get her latest and I will be eagerly hunting down her debut novel, Atmospheric disturbances. Favorite quote: "Fools, braggarts and purse grabbers had caused his mother's misery. Corruption, laziness and malice. His defense poured over me like used cooking grease. He saw in Leonberg a horrible place."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is an artful, engaging, interesting, thoughtful book that manages to feel both ultra-contemporary and historically grounded. It dances around dips into the profound without banging the profound over your head, mostly through its phenomenal writing and the way it allows its characters to see through the multi-layered world. "The movement of the planets across the sky--which to us here on earth appears chaotic--Hans believes they move according to a profound order. That sounds like a peasant This is an artful, engaging, interesting, thoughtful book that manages to feel both ultra-contemporary and historically grounded. It dances around dips into the profound without banging the profound over your head, mostly through its phenomenal writing and the way it allows its characters to see through the multi-layered world. "The movement of the planets across the sky--which to us here on earth appears chaotic--Hans believes they move according to a profound order. That sounds like a peasant girl's dream of marrying a prince. Though bees know how to make honey, which is unfathomable enough." Katharina Kepler--the titular mother/witch--is not the only voice in this narrative but she is the strongest. She is clever, she will not bend to fools, she respects nature and loves animals, she is wise... or, in another light: she is acerbic, she is stubborn and prideful, she looks down on humanity, she is weary of the world. It is easy to care for her and want to listen to her story, to root for her to win, to fear for her, to imagine she has a deeper knowledge of the world that we have lost. The quoted line above is her way of grappling with her son's scientific work, her own plight, and the universe around her. It's brilliant and encapsulates not the book itself but her way of seeing to the heart of things. The bees making honey is indeed just as much of a miracle as the movement of celestial bodies.

  27. 4 out of 5

    KarenK2

    I received this from Netgalley.com. A fictionalized account based on the famous mathematician and astrologer, Johannes Kepler, whose mother Katharina was accused of being a witch in the 16th century. The writing and story flow was good but the word usage seemed off using more modern language like the word 'okay' and 'huh'. It was humorous and rather terrifying to hear the inane accusations which would prove Katharina to be a witch- or not. 3☆ I received this from Netgalley.com. A fictionalized account based on the famous mathematician and astrologer, Johannes Kepler, whose mother Katharina was accused of being a witch in the 16th century. The writing and story flow was good but the word usage seemed off using more modern language like the word 'okay' and 'huh'. It was humorous and rather terrifying to hear the inane accusations which would prove Katharina to be a witch- or not. 3☆

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Hawthorne

    I’m usually a sucker for historical fiction and this was such a refreshing novel within the genre. Rivka Galchen really brings to life the realities of the witch trials in the 1600s. The impact it had on women, their families and their friends and the harsh judgment and lack of justice for women through the legal system. And through the seriousness of the novel, there were moments of witchy humour that made it a truly enjoyable read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    BookTrib.com

    Fans of Hilary Mantel’s work and Maggie O’Farrell’s HAMNET will delight in Galchen’s prodigious talent at excavating and modernizing the past in this clever and chilling yarn. Read our full review here: https://booktrib.com/2021/06/08/histo... Fans of Hilary Mantel’s work and Maggie O’Farrell’s HAMNET will delight in Galchen’s prodigious talent at excavating and modernizing the past in this clever and chilling yarn. Read our full review here: https://booktrib.com/2021/06/08/histo...

  30. 5 out of 5

    michal k-c

    if you see something suspicious say something suspicious

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