We Hear the Dead
Dianne K. Salerni
This is a very readable and interesting recounting of Maggie, Kate and Leah Fox, three sisters who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead.
I had never heard of the Fox sisters and their influence on American thinking in the 1850s. I did not know that the Fox sisters were responsible for launching the popular Spiritualism movement.
I thought Dianne Salerni did a great job showing how many people during that time period longed to reach out to their departed loved ones and how many influential members of the community believed in or supported the Fox sisters, including Amy and Isaac Post, who were part of the Underground Railroad, and President Franklin Pierce’s wife, who was desperate to communicate with their lost son. Salerni also gives the reader a good look at life in the mid 1800s, with her use of language, references to women’s rights, slavery and the abolitionists, Quakers, explorers and forward thinkers. She also shows the hard impact diseases such as consumption, rheumatic fever and cholera had on the population.
Equally interesting was Maggie’s relationship with explorer Dr. Elisha Kane and his efforts to pull Maggie away from spiritual “rapping.” I also liked reading about Kane’s arctic explorations and the dangers that went with trying to map out unknown areas of the world.
Some of my favorite parts include all the referenced tricks the Fox sisters and others used, particularly the candles, and the way the Posts help Maggie and Leah escape danger in their wagon.
This would be a great book for a middle school syllabus.
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