Book Review: We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni

We Hear the Dead imageMaggie Fox and her sister, Kate, are just playing around when they pretend they can communicate with the dead. But soon their brother is digging up the basement and finding what may be a body, and people everywhere are coming to them seeking to communicate with their loved ones who have passed on. They can’t tell the truth without getting into a lot of trouble, but they didn’t realize just how much their fame would spread.

When Maggie falls in love with well-known explorer Elisha Kent Kane, she wants to give it all up to be with him. But she finds she can’t just walk away when her family depends on her so much. Caught between the life she has and the life she wants, Maggie struggles to find a solution that will let her be true to herself without hurting those she loves.

Based on the true story of the Fox sisters and the beginning of the Spiritualist movement in the mid 1850s, We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni is a fascinating look at how something can start out as a lark and then spiral out of control. The Fox sisters’ story is the 1800s version of a video going viral and taking on a life of its own.

This is great historical fiction, but mother-daughter book clubs can add a modern touch to their conversations as well. Issues to discuss include differences in technology and communications between then and now, and how that would affect someone making claims similar to those of the Fox sisters today. Other topics include deceiving the outside world to meet the expectations of those in your family, social constraints on women of the times, expectations of social classes, and more.

Salerni includes a list at the back of the book for further reading, and it could be fun for members of a group to find out more about the real life Maggie Fox and Elisha Kent Kane to present at a meeting. As I didn’t know about Maggie before reading We Hear the Dead, I didn’t know how her story would turn out. Salerni does a great job of weaving fictional details into the framework of actual events to keep the pace moving and keep the reader interested until the very end. We Hear the Dead would be a great book for groups with girls aged 14 and older.

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