Title: Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch
Author: Rivka Galchen
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published: 8 June 2021
I received an advanced e-copy of the book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.
I didn’t realize until the end that this was actually based on a true story. Katharina Kepler is a woman who lived in Leonberg, Germany. She’s the mother of the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler and was accused of being a witch in 1615.
Rivka Galchen’s story begins in 1618: plague is spreading, the Thirty Years’ War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known for her herbal remedies and success of her children, she also does herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone’s business. When the insipid Ursula Reinbold (Katharina calls her the Werewolf) accuses her of witchcraft, Katharina is in trouble. But the real trouble doesn’t being until she decides to go forward with a case of slander against her. That’s when the Ducal Governor decides to go forward with the case to save himself from his own mistakes. Soon everyone in town turns against Katharina, bringing up experiences from seven, ten, forty years previous. Johannes must turn his attention away from the sky and towards defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and neighbor, Simon.
I was actually a bit bored by the book. It wasn’t really what I was expecting when I first read the summary. I did really love Katharina! She was stubborn, fierce, down to earth, no-nonsense kind of woman who I could definitely get along with. Simon was also such a lovable, caring, if strange, friend.
Of course, no one actually knows if Katharina is a witch. All the testimony throughout the book seems to be either misremembering past events or twisting the event to show Katharina in a bad light. It’s horrible how one person can have a whole town turn against an aging widow. Thankfully, Katharina is found innocent of the charges and lives out the rest of her days with her daughter. However, the rest of the ending (written by Simon) felt like a let-down and was abruptly wrapped up with all the people who died, except Greta (Katharina’s daughter) who remarried.
I’m now interested in reading more books (non-fiction) on Katharina and the witchcraft trails. But, let us all remember no woman actually practiced witchcraft. Women were accused of being a witch because they expressed an opinion or said something that upset someone or any number of benign infractions.
Happy Reading Darlings!