“A gripping, well-told story of faith and truth.”
—Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner
“A disturbingly effective historical novel.”
“Beautifully written, nary a word out of place, and with a few moments that throw you beyond—the way good books do ... deeply satisfying.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2007
The year is 1507, and severe famine strikes a small town in Germany. A friar arrives from a large city, claiming that the town is under the spell of witches in league with the devil. He brings with him a book called the Malleus Maleficarum—“The Witch’s Hammer.” It is 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, burn her, and restore bounty.
The elderly Güde Müller suffers stark and frightening visions; none in the village knows this, and Güde herself worries that the sharpness of her mind has begun to fade. 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, and that her secret visions will be revealed.