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Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will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.
“Galchen’s story will, by necessity, remind many readers of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, but by focusing her narrative on an old woman rather than a cast of attractive young girls, she’s made her mission a far sneakier one. Then, too, Galchen’s prose can sparkle and sting with wit. . . .There is so much in this novel to consider—the degree to which we make monsters of one another, the way that old age can make of femininity an apparently terrifying, otherworldly thing—but it is also, at every step along the way, an entirely delicious book. Dazzling in its humor, intelligence, and the richness of its created world.”
“Galchen’s darkly funny tale, based on historic records, is at times achingly resonant.”
“This book suits our time of towering duplicity and uncomfortable truth. . . . One of Galchen’s great accomplishments is making us see, through Katharina’s boldness, how illusory and unstable our concept of “society” is, and how ultimately, looking upwards, at the stars, away from the earth, as her son famously did, is a pursuit more likely to have truth at its end.”
“Though it's chronologically remote, in the story of Katarina Kepler one can reflect on contemporary issues that include feminism, social class, ageism and the ways in which people demonize those who don't conform to society's norms, while at the same time pondering the alien atmosphere of a world drenched in religious fervor and a pervasive belief in the supernatural. There's nothing diabolical about it, but Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is a consistently entertaining novel that casts its own memorable spell.”
“The comedy that runs through ‘Everyone Knows’ is a magical brew of absurdity and brutality. Galchen has a Kafkaesque sense of the way the exercise of authority inflates egos and twists logic. . . [Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is] no witchcraft-craze parody.”
"Little is known about the real-life Katharina, but her fictional counterpart . . . . sparkles in this prickly and often black-humoured story."
“[D]elightfully funny. . . .Galchen has written another smart book that investigates the power of narrative, both good and bad, foregrounding a woman who’d only been a footnote to a famous man’s story, all while being funny and deceptively easy to read. It’s quite a magic trick.”
“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. . . . This is a resounding delight.”
“Galchen's novel is exuberant — funny and urgent and full of a singular energy. Though based on a true story, it beautifully demonstrates Galchen's limber imagination and ability to find narrative harmony in the chaos of our world.”