Reviews of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

by Rivka Galchen

Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen X
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2021, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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Drawing on real historical documents but infused with the intensity of imagination, sly humor, and intellectual fire for which Rivka Galchen is known, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch will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.

Excerpt
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

Herein I begin my account, with the help of my neighbor Simon Satler, since I am unable to read or write. 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.

When I was a child, our cow Mare at my father's inn was cross and bitter toward me. I didn't know why. I wouldn't hesitate to put a blue silk ribbon on her neck if she were here today. She died from the milk fever, which was no doing of mine, though as a young child I felt it was my doing, because Mare had kicked me and I had then called her fat-kidneyed. Was she my enemy? It takes time and experience to gain a cow's trust.

Now I'm seventy-some years old. I'll spend no more time on the enemies, or loves, of my youth and middle age. I'll say only that I've never before had even the smallest run-in with the law. Not for fighting, not for cursing, not for licentiousness, not for the pettiest theft. Yet ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the author's choice of the book's narrators. We alternate between Katharina Kepler's voice as transcribed by her neighbor Simon, Simon himself, and then testimony and letters from accusers or advocates of Katharina. How might using multiple narrators be more revealing than using a single narrator? What color makes it in, what nuance, or what intimacy?
  2. Rumors are central to Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch. Describe some of the rumors that affect Katharina Kepler throughout the novel. Are there any that you found particularly insidious? Which ones, and why? How and why do the rumors start? Describe how they take new forms as Katharina's story progresses. Were you surprised by the life some of the rumors took on? What ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Superficially, not a lot happens, and at first glance the narrative appears to simply be an old woman's rambling report of her grievances. Upon reflection, though, one starts to appreciate Galchen's talent; she marvelously paints detailed pictures of the era, the characters and the progression of Katharina's case without being overt with her descriptions. Events happen in the background and are referred to obliquely, but the reader is still able to understand what's going on. From her own point of view, Katharina is a perfectly reasonable person, but behind her words we see someone overbearing, cranky and generally difficult. It's the ability to make the complex seem simple at first that sets Galchen's writing apart...continued

Full Review (675 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[V]ery funny and witty...Galchen expertly weaves together a story told from multiple perspectives, showing how easy it is for a mob mentality to take hold in a climate of fear and ignorance when a woman simply exists outside of the norm.

Oprah Daily
Bewitching...Galchen is a sorcerer—a conjurer of the weird and wonderful. The tale has lessons for our own time about the power of fear and superstition to foment evil. But Galchen's playful, poetic sentences uplift and transport, like fairy tale magic.

Vulture
Galchen is an inventor and fabulist of the highest order: Her narratives are rigorous, antic creations that explore deceit, misinformation, identity, and the nature of knowledge. Her latest puzzle box of a novel is a surrealist horror story set in the 17th century...the story is winding and hallucinatory, full of poison, gossip, and astral musings. Drawing partly from historical documents, the world Galchen creates feels more than just real. It feels haunted.

Washington Post
[H]ighly creative...The comedy that runs through Everyone Knows is a magical brew of absurdity and brutality.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[C]aptivating...Galchen portrays her characters as complicated and full of wit...This is a resounding delight.

Booklist
Though the story unfolds in seventeenth-century Germany, Galchen gives Kath and the rest of her characters modern speech habits in a way that retains authenticity and makes for compulsively readable prose...Enchanted creatures and enticing oddities populate the book's pages...The highly satisfying result is part portrait of an eccentric woman, part social drama, and part nuanced recasting of historical misogynies.

Library Journal
In this compelling look at women's rights and the invented crime of witchcraft, the surprise is that the perseverance of the accused shifts the focus from victimhood to basic mortality and the challenge of dealing with death and illness before a coherent understanding of disease existed. Highly recommended for fans of history, science, and the human condition.

Author Blurb Alejandro Zambra, author of Ways of Going Home
This jewel of a novel is as perturbing as it is hilarious. It's also a fundamental piece of history—particularly relevant for these times—written with Rivka's unusual intelligence and her sharp eye for detail.

Author Blurb Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Orange World
Imagine a story set in 1620 that speaks directly to your own scalded, twenty-first century heart. By Rivka Galchen's magic, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch instantly became one of my favorite books. I need no witchcraft to predict it will astonish, beguile, and transform you, too.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

Johannes Kepler, 1610 The narrator of Rivka Galchen's novel Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch is Katharina Kepler, mother of noted astronomer Johannes Kepler. Kepler was born in 1571 in Weil der Stadt, Württemberg, a German territory within the Holy Roman Empire. His father, whom Kepler pronounced "an immoral, rough and quarrelsome soldier," was a mercenary who abandoned the family when Johannes was five years old. Though he was sickly and from a poor background, Kepler's intellect was quickly recognized and encouraged. After grammar school, he went on to a Protestant seminary at Adelberg and continued his religious studies at the Protestant university in Tübingen.

Kepler's interest in astronomy began when he was young; he watched the Great ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Rivka Galchen

If you liked Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Lonely People
    All the Lonely People
    by Mike Gayle
    Mike Gayle's charming novel All the Lonely People introduces us to Hubert Bird, an 82-year-old ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.