Summary and book reviews of The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman

The Witch's Trinity

A Novel

by Erika Mailman

The Witch's Trinity
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2007, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2008, 288 pages

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Book Summary

It is 1507. A friar arrives in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, but the friar promises he will identify the guilty woman - the witch - who has brought God’s anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. But how quickly can she be found?

The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friar’s arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought God’s anger upon the town; she will be burned, and bounty will be restored. Tierkinddorf is filled with hope. Neighbors wonder aloud who has cursed them and how quickly can she be found? They begin sharing secrets with the friar.

Güde Müller, an elderly woman, has stark and frightening visions—recently she has seen things that defy explanation. None in the village know this, and Güde herself worries that perhaps her mind has begun to wander—certainly she has outlived all but one of her peers in Tierkinddorf. Yet of one thing she is absolutely certain: She has become an object of scorn and a burden to her son’s wife. In these desperate times her daughter-in-law would prefer one less hungry mouth at the family table. As the friar turns his eye on each member of the tiny community, Güde dreads what her daughter-in-law might say to win his favor.

Then one terrible night Güde follows an unearthly voice and the scent of charred meat into the snow-filled woods. Come morning, she no longer knows if the horror she witnessed was real or imagined. She only knows that if the friar hears of it, she may be damned in this life as well as the next.

Chapter 1
In the second year of no harvest, 1507 Tierkinddorf, Germany

It was a winter to make bitter all souls. So cold the birds froze midcall and our little fire couldn’t keep ice from burrowing into bed with us. The fleas froze in the straw beds, bodies swollen with chilled blood.

We were hungry.

It had been a poor year for grain, like the year before, and the blasted field was now covered with snow. What game there was starved too, their ribs plain as kindling. But soon enough we ate all of those and there were no longer claw marks leading us along their little paths.

The lord’s mill, which Jost ran, hadn’t been in use for years. When I looked upon the mill wheel a fortnight ago, a cobweb stretched from the hub to the teeth. No one had any grain to grind and so our barter was based on “next harvest.” Last year, the lord had released the vassals from obligation and we had all walked the furrows of the tilled earth many times, seeking a scrap ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
This reader’s guide is intended as a starting point for your discussion of Erika Mailman’s thought-provoking and powerful The Witch’s Trinity.

About This Book
The year is 1507, and a friar has arrived in Tierkinddorf, a remote German village nestled deeply in the woods. The village has been suffering a famine, and the villagers are desperately hungry. The friar’s arrival is a miracle, and when he claims he can restore the town to prosperity, the men and women gathered to hear him rejoice. The friar has a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer”—a guide to gaining confessions of witchcraft. The friar promises he will identify the guilty woman who has brought...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Like Gude, the reader is not clear whether what she experiences is real, or not. Is she indeed a witch or just a good woman caught up in bad times? Whether witchcraft is real or not is simply not at issue here because, for the people of Tierkinddorf, it is undisputed fact and Mailman sets her characters' hearts and minds firmly in their milieu, there is no heroic character laboring moral points with an enlightened sensibility centuries ahead of his or her time.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

The San Francisco Chronicle - Laurel Maury

The Witch's Trinity is quietly wonderful. If there is a flaw, it's that it should have had more dreaming. The unanswered questions are deeply satisfying, and it's Güde's dreams and the bits of paganism, which seem like the village's own dream, that fuel them. But the story has an unshakable emotional truth. And the author is faithful to it; she never pauses to try to make a point. That's the reader's job.

Publishers Weekly

Fans of supernatural fiction will want to give this a look.

Booklist

Mailman probes the human psyche, peeling back the layers of the basest human instincts to expose the dangerous frailties of the human soul.

Author Blurb James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder
A linguistic enchantress has arrived among us, gifted in transmogrifying the mundanities of historical fiction into tableaux of indelible terror and abiding beauty.

Author Blurb Holly Payne, author of The Virgin’s Knot
The Witch's Trinity is one of those mind-bending histories that make you wonder how many women in the 16th century hid in fear of being condemned for their healing powers. Erika Mailman superbly re-creates the terror of the women who lost, and the hope of those who managed to survive, the most egregious war of the sexes.

Author Blurb Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner
A well-constructed novel and a gripping, well-told story of faith and truth. #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kite Runner

Reader Reviews

Vicki McReynolds

Chilling and Moving
I finished this remarkable little book in one sitting. Narrated by a poor elderly woman in the Middle Ages, this distinctive voice of Gude, as much as the story itself, offers a window to a not so long ago word world where pagan and early Christian...   Read More

Cyndy

Bewitchingly Good Read
A dark and unsettling tale of women living in a time when paganism and the Church ran the lives of the villages and villagers. Imagine being accused of the cause of failed crops, soured milk or infertility on the basis of one neighbor's spiteful ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

About the Witchhunts
The period of the 'Great European Witch-hunt's' started around 1450. There are many theories as to why the witch-hunts started in the first place (which are neatly outlined at this website - which, should be noted, belongs to a Catholic College); but the flames were certainly fed by Pope Innocent VIII's 1484 papal bull, in which he condemned an alleged outbreak of witchcraft and heresy in the Rhine River valley and deputized the authors of Malleus Maleficarum (a ...

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