'Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch' by Professor Rivka Galchen to Release in June

Nicole Saldarriaga
February 03, 2021
Assistant Professor Rivka Galchen

Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch, a novel by Assistant Professor Rivka Galchen, will be released by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on June 8, 2021. The book is available for pre-order here

The novel follows Katharina Keplar, a widow who brews herbal remedies, as she is accused of witchcraft in the 17th century German duchy of Württemberg. Katharina's successful son, Johannes, is the Imperial Mathematician and the author of the laws of planetary motion, but he finds himself torn from his work to defend his mother. Caught in the midst of a situation where the stakes are as high as execution, Katherina narrates her side of a story that is ultimately about hysteria, societal aggression, and the dangers of superstition. 

According to Kevin Lozano of 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...the world Galchen creates feels more than just real. It feels haunted."

The novel, which draws on historical documents, is a mixture of the real and the surreal, the true-to-life and the fantastical, much like Galchen's previous work. In an interview with Hermione Hoby for Aesop's The Fabulist, Galchen discusses her interest in using fantastical elements to reveal core truths, saying, "Maybe it has something to do with being very devoted to the real in a certain way, and to emotional realities. For example...there’s a Japanese myth I’ve long really liked, 'The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.' One day this old, poor, childless bamboo cutter is out cutting down bamboo...and he comes across a glowing bamboo stalk. Inside it he finds a glowing tiny baby, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He takes the baby home to his wife and they raise the baby...and the baby grows to normal size, and grows up beautifully, and eventually it turns out the bamboo girl is from the moon, she boards a spacecraft home, leaves behind broken hearts… there’s lots going on. But re-reading the story recently, I was thinking, Oh this is just a pretty straightforward description of what it feels like to have a baby: They arrive in your life as if by magic; they're a tiny bit spooky; they seem to come from another realm; they have a weird charisma; they are never entirely yours. The myth is just a straightforward, realistic description.

"It’s a kind of counterfactual thinking, and counter-factual thinking is uniquely good at revealing the ordinary things we don't quite see because we're so accustomed to them."

Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch is highly anticipated after the success of Galchen's debut novel, Atmospheric Disturbances (Picador, 2009), which was named a notable or best book of the year by several publications including The New York Times and Slate.

Rivka Galchen is the recipient of a William Saroyan International Prize for Fiction and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, among other distinctions. She writes regularly for The New Yorker, whose editors selected her for their list of 20 Under 40 American fiction writers in 2010. Her debut novel Atmospheric Disturbances and her story collection American Innovations (Short Stories, FSG, 2014) were both New York Times Best Books of the Year. She is also the author of Little Labors (Essays, New Directions, 2016) and Rat Rule 79 (Yonder, 2019). She has received an MD from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Galchen lives in New York City.