Children of Disobedience

Front Cover for Children of Disobedience

Children of Disobedience

The Love Story of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora

From the heart-pounding escape from the cloister to the romance and marriage with the great reformer of Christianity—Asta Scheib’s lively and intimate portrait of Katharina von Bora draws us close to the heart and soul of this important historical figure.

In a stream of consciousness narrative that flows effortlessly between past and present, Scheib crafts the story of Katharina von Bora, the strong-minded and devoted wife of Martin Luther.

Seized by the revolutionary ideas of Martin Luther, Katharina escaped from her convent to live with the other runaway nuns under the care of a kind merchant in Wittenberg. There she met the man whose ideas were so compelling that they struck fear in the heart of the papacy and lit the fire of the peasants’ revolt.  

Scheib captures Katharina and Martin’s budding relationship and the tumultuous times in which it unfolded in vivid, sensual descriptions of daily life. This rigorously researched account sheds new light on the passion and vision of this radical couple.

Reviews and endorsements

"The marriage of Martin Luther and his bride, Katharina von Bora, offers virtually untapped material for fiction, and award-winning German novelist Scheib captures the tumultuous times of Luther’s Reformation in this well-researched account. [Her] . . . atmospheric evocation of 16th century Germany depicts the political and social forces that led to the Reformation. The Luthers’ marriage is portrayed as passionate, even as they struggle with economic hardship, illness and the demands of Luther’s mission. Scheib offers a plausible explanation of Luther’s teaching on the subject of sex within marriage: how he began with ideas of practical outcomes, such as offspring, and later developed the controversial idea that sex reinforces a special bond between husband and wife. While the book contains no narrative descriptions of the couple’s sex life, Katharina’s reflections on the subject are quite sensuous. Readers may take exception to her portrayal, however. Though Katharina was unusually outspoken and interested in the Reformation cause, the novel only speaks of her interaction with these ideas at the beginning, when Luther’s tracts have moved her and several other nuns to escape from their cloister. As depicted here, she becomes increasingly bitter and angry, with fewer glimpses of tenderness and happiness. The final picture we have of Katharina, generally regarded as a woman of great strength and courage, is one of fear and confusion."
Publishers Weekly

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"Perched high upon the broad limbs of a narrative, yet shrouded by the brambles of private musings, literary eyes track the flight of Katharina von Bora. From the swell of this drama, an escape through moonlit woods from a convent in Nimbschen, evolves a poignant and remarkably tender profile of a woman’s inner strength. This passion, captured by Scheib’s pen, has managed to transcend Katharina von Bora beyond any historical footnote labeling her simply as wife to the father of Protestant Reformation.

Left to a convent as a child by her impoverished father, Katharina became a nun despite her driving undercurrents that defied her Catholic teaching. Despite physical and sexual abuses, she was spared her sanity by way of a bosom confidante and her irrepressible vein of independence that led to marginal acts of rebellion. Embracing the theology of young Martin Luther, and inspired by the Reformation, she fled with eight young nuns to Wittenberg.

The balance of Disobedience follows the overt complexities of Katharina’s controversial marriage to Martin Luther, himself a runaway monk. Yet the inner thoughts of Katharina, as relayed through Scheib’s intuitive hand, reveal the true intricacies and hardships that both nurtured and plagued their union. Trials of poverty, disease, and death paled beside the continually shifting definition of love between Martin and his wife. 'Every time Martinus preaches, the thought crosses Katharina’s mind that he is far more strongly wedded to the church than to her . . . ' Via passages detailing her managing of Luther’s finances, offering of theological insight and operation of ' . . . a boardinghouse, a hospital, and a madhouse . . .' known as The Black Cloister; the uncompromising character of Katharina is viscerally felt. At the side of her dying daughter Katharina cries, 'If it would save my Elslein, I’d bring every witch and the Devil himself to her bedside.'

Sidestepping the erosive action of excessive detail and banal period characterizations, Scheib effectively illuminates the complexities of Katharina von Bora and of relationships in general. Disobedience engages readers in this manner, treating its religious backdrop with historical objectivity and remaining accessible to a diverse audience. With the alphabet re-beaded to dress a foreign tongue, translator Ward and author Scheib present this English version of Kinder des Ungehorsams, which was originally met with wide acclaim when first published in Germany in 1996. Reflecting the author’s ample research, including documented letters from Martin Luther to Katharina, the novel is faithful to history, and merges a seamless blend of events and emotion."
Karen A. Wyckoff, Foreword Magazine


9780824516956
Hardcover / 248 pages
Dimensions: 5.74 x 8.54
CROSSROAD, 2000