Unfortunately, that really happened--all too often-- in medieval Europe. Author Ginger Garrett tells us that in Germany alone (where this story is set) some 24-thousand women were burned alive for witchcraft.
A woman, a priest...
Wolves Among Us is the story of Mia, who lives in a small German village in 1538. Her situation is bleak: she's married to Bjorn, the local sheriff, who is cold and distant to her; her little daughter, Alma, is chronically ill; and Mia has to care for her senile mother-in-law Margarite.
To add to her problems, the women of the village seem to want nothing to do with her--except for Dame Alice, whose persistent pleas to come into her home and eat with her Mia ignores. She is afraid any affection from anyone will make her crumble, and uncover her own past as an orphaned beggar.
But Wolves Among Us is as much the story of the village priest, Father Stefan, as it is of Mia. Father Stefan often feels bewildered and helpless as he tries to shepherd his little flock. He doesn't even have access to a copy of the Word of God--something William Tyndale has been executed for producing.
When a man and woman are inexplicably murdered in the village, Stefan feels the need to call in an outsider for help--an Inquisitor named Bastion.
Stefan just wants Bastion to root out the problem, take care of it, and leave--but Bastion has other plans. The handsome, charismatic Inquisitor immediately blames the village's problems on witchcraft, and sets about to kill innocent women on the shakiest of charges.
Ultimately, the experience forces both Mia and Father Stefan to change and grow in profound ways...but not before ugliness and violence (in the name of God) tragically grips their village.
A dark story
I'll admit, sometimes one of the things I like most about fiction is being able to live in another place for a while--usually a place I enjoy.
Dinfoil, Germany in 1538 was not a jolly place. At times, I was a bit bogged down in the often depressing and bleak tale, and I wished for a few more moments of lightness.
However, to realistically portray this moment in history, Garrett couldn't take us on a walk in the park. And I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to tell you that there's pay-off in an ultimately redemptive, uplifting and even joyful conclusion.
A story with profound implications
This beautifully-written book brings out so many issues, including the role of women in the church through the ages. In medieval times, women had no voice at all. Even when the Bible became accessible, they were often forbidden to read it (assuming they even knew how to read)...and they often turned to folk magic to help them with everyday health and personal issues.
Women were blamed for sin--as Garrett puts it in an afterword, "evil existed outside of men and inside of women." The atmosphere was perfect for labeling women as witches and cruelly executing them.
Our attitude toward modern-day witches
In Garrett's fascinating afterword, she tells us she wanted to find out what makes modern-day witches and Wiccans tick, so she arranged a face-to-face with several of them. What she saw surprised her.
"The women I met were...lovely, wounded, searching, fascinated by a world beyond our own, generous and open." Garrett says in many cases, the women had sought answers in churches but had been rebuffed.
Garrett calls on Christians to deal with such women with kindness, not berating or hostility. She says: "As with any opportunity to evangelize, we must earn the right to tell others of our experiences or opinons."
An unusual book
I don't know how I've come this far without reading anything by Ginger Garrett (especially since her last name is my maiden name!) I will definitely be reading more by her.
Wolves Among Us is one of the best Christian fiction books I've read in terms of addressing profound issues thoughtfully and caringly.
But more than that, it's a great read! Garrett made me care deeply about the characters, and her excellent writing kept me turning the pages as she deftly built a tale of suspense, evil, tragedy and ultimately hope. I highly recommend it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Wynn-Wynn Media. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”