Book Review: Luther and Katharina


When pivotal figures of history are relegated only to the pages of factual school books, pass or fail exams and dusty encyclopedias, often everything but that single hinge—that pivot point—of their lives is lost.

We are left to wonder (or simply don’t): What ordinary days shaped them into that world-changing person?

We mistakenly assume, unconsciously, that their entire life was spent in those years we’ve recorded.

I think we do ourselves (and our subjects of interest) a great disservice if we fail to ponder the little things: What were their relationships like with their parents, spouses, children? Did they struggle with boredom, depression or loneliness? Did they have a chronic illness, a short temper a bad habit? What were their favorite foods, hobbies or interests? Certainly they had many, many more hours than are accounted for in our alphabetized encyclopedic notations.

In elegant response to these proper questions rises the well-researched, historical-fiction novel, and one of the best is Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion, by Jody Hedlund.

As a reformed Christian whose most fundamental tenants of faith are based in the reformation, I am humbled to admit that I knew so little about the man, Martin Luther. In the pages of this well-written, engaging book I have met him, come to know him, loved him and loved with him. I have found who he was, what he might have been, considered his thoughts, his pains, his failures and triumphs. Exquisitely done.

Luther and Katharina actually begins with her. Luther’s teachings were the linchpin that sparked her daring escape from the cloistered life of a nun. The reader follows this fiery lass through her first encounter with Luther and the long, God-ordained process that refined them both and brought them together.

In between the narrative of these remarkable lives, Hedlund weaves the gritty details of history. I had never really considered the thousands of lives lost in the reformation—nor how Luther must have felt as the catalyst to the entire series of events. I had never known about the degree of corruption in the Roman Catholic Church; never really considered the impact of such lies as indulgences and celibacy.

Luther and Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion is one book you will not want to put down and you will be better for every minute devoted to reading it. Don’t miss this excellent, heart-warming, heart-rending book.

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