Guest Post by Kevin Brown
In Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, Rivka Galchen uses the story of Johannes Kepler’s mother, whom her neighbors accused of being a witch, to explore how easily people will bow to societal pressures. Katharina is a woman like many in the early 1600s: unable to read or write, but knowledgeable of the natural world. She is also a widow in possession of property. That combination makes her an ideal target for her accusers. Galchen also creates a seemingly innocent bystander—Katharina’s neighbor Simon, who serves as her guardian in the absence of her children—to take down her testimony. The reader watches the world through Simon’s eyes, as well as Katharina’s account of her experiences, and the reader also watches Simon react to the pressures the townspeople put on him. Through Simon, Galchen raises the question of who is willing to stand beside the accused even to their own detriment, as well as exploring what it feels like to be the accused. In her recreation of a time that seems so different from our own, Galchen reminds readers we will all have such moments—both of bearing witness and of standing up for ourselves—turning a time-bound tale into one that is terribly relevant.
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka Galchen. Macmillan, June 2021.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.