Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni

It started out as a harmless prank. But soon enough, spiritualism was the fastest growing movement of the nineteenth century, and Maggie Fox was trapped in a life of deceit.

Meticulously researched by the author, We Hear the Dead reveals the secret of how the Fox sisters faked their rapping sounds and their motives for inventing the séance and founding spiritualism.

I began the deception when I was too young to know right from wrong. No one suspected us of any trick, because we were such young children. We were led on by my sister purposely and by my mother unintentionally. Only with the passing of time did I come to understand the consequences of my actions. As Doctor wrote to me: "Weary, weary is the life by cold deceit oppressed."

My sister has used the word "deception." I object to her use of that word, for I do not believe that I have ever intentionally deceived anyone. Maggie has a different understanding of all the events that have happened since that night in Hydesville forty years ago. To her the spirits were always a game. For my sister Leah, they were a means to an end. For my mother, a miracle. And for me, they were my life's calling. I have no regrets.

Interesting story! I didn't think I'd heard of the Fox sisters and the start of Spiritualism but the more I read the more I remember hearing/reading about them. I also Googled the sisters and read the exact account as the book, only the book has more embellishment/emotion/story/characters (you catch my drift) etc.
The writing kept me involved in the story as well as the characters. I enjoyed watching Maggie grow up and struggle with her deception. She was easily swayed by those she loved to continue with the 'rappings" of the dead. Until she meets and falls in love with a handsome explorer who wants Maggie to give up everything for him. His family will not accept her and he believes if he can change her, they will. I was bugged that Maggie couldn't see he wanted someone different though he loved her.
Kate is the youngest sister who came to believe she really could speak with the spirits.
Leah was the bossy older sister who used and abused her sisters for money. The only one in the family who truly didn't know it was a sham was the mother. The father moved to the house he was building for his family and we never hear about him again. Sad for the mother! Did she ever miss him?
The story pulled me right in and I enjoyed reading it from the bright, fun beginning to the sad, dark end.

Rating PG
V: Intense mob scenes
L: None
S: None

Want to buy it?

25% test (p. 106):
""The spirits are very wise, of course," murmured Leah, who had turned back to her letter.
"Mrs. Mott went so far as to ask me, I continued, "If I couldn't manage to contact a spirit of some historical fame and acquire testimonial from him regarding women's rights."
Leah's hand faltered and dropped a blob of ink at this news, and she had to reach for a blotter. "What is your point, Margaretta?"she asked in annoyance.
"Do they actually believe, or are they using--"
"They have chosen to publicly state that they believe," Leah said, fixing me with her no-nonsense eye. "That is good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you."
Upon those words I had to be content. Amy Post believed in the spirits, or claimed that she believed, and because I shared most of Mrs. Post's views regarding the abolition of slavery and the rights of women, I was not averse to including support for these progressive issues in our spirits' messages. Part of me wondered whether the feminist portion of Mrs. Post's nature did not admire Leah's gumption at making a living at tricks worthy of Mr. P. T. Barnum himself."


  1. Hi Taffy, this sounds like a fascinating story and that the three point of views are so different makes it more so.

    As a mom I love that your rate the books. It's important to me to know what my kids are reading.

    AND good news, you won CAYMAN SUMMER by Angela Morrison on my blog (or another Angela Morrison book if you'd prefer.) E- mail me at
    jenwolfy (at) gmai (dot)com with your address so I can send you your prize.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jennifer!

  3. I enjoyed this book. It was interesting to learn about the spiritual movement, something I knew next to nothing about.