Friday, July 2, 2010

Review of We Hear the Dead and Giveaway!

We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni
Pages: 426
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 1, 2010
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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.  Maggie: 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." Kate: 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."

Before I started this book, I didn't know much about spiritualism.  I actually had to look it up.  According to the dictionary, "Spiritualism- noun-  a system of belief or religious practice based on supposed communication with the spirits of the dead, esp. through mediums."  It's crazy to think this all started in 19th century America with two young girls, Maggie and Kate Fox.  They didn't intend to create this "religion,"  they actually wanted to spook their annoying niece.  It obviously developed into something more.  Maggie often feels bad with how this all came about and how she feels she is deceiving the public, but Kate, on the other hand, knows she has a "gift" and doesn't feel remorse at all.  

So, you are probably wondering how they deceived first their family, their neighborhood, and then the world? They engaged in spirit rapping.  For example, people would ask the spirits a question and one rap would be "no" and two raps would be "yes."  The Fox sisters used everything from cracking their joints to various "high-tech" contraptions to covey the spirit's message.  Maggie and Kate, with the help of their meddling older sister, Leah, springboard into fame and gain a lot of attention, as well as money from their spirit rapping.  Famous people call on their household to sit for a spirit circle, such as the president's wife.  This is a huge change for a once poor family.  All is status quo until Maggie meets Philadelphia's Dr. Elisha Kent Kane.  Their romance blossoms and he encourages her to leave spiritualism and her family behind.  Essentially, he tries to groom her to be his wife, but how can a famous explorer be associated with someone engaging in spiritualism?  Will the rich and famous Dr. Kane convince Maggie to leave spiritualism and her family behind?  Dianne Salerni's debut novel, We Hear the Dead, is one that is well-researched and very engaging.  I was engrossed in Maggie and Kate's story from the beginning.  

First, I would like to say how unbelievable it is that these two girls fooled so many people.  Incredible!  You can learn more about Maggie and Kate Fox by reading this article from Salerni's website.  It's truly remarkable.  As I was reading this novel, it was very clear to me how much research and effort Salerni put into it.  We Hear the Dead is filled with so much information and little anecdotes from the time period.  She did a brilliant job portraying spiritualism and the 19th century.  What is so inconceivable to me is the fact that you can "google" these two girls and their stories come up as well Dr. Kane's.   Personally, I love historical fiction so I found it fascinating, especially when parts of the story incorporated some local experiences from Philadelphia.  It was a lesson in history that, for once, I didn't mind learning!

The characters, especially Maggie and Dr. Kane, were compelling.  Salerni writes most of the chapters from Maggie's point of view, but every so often there would be a chapter from Kate's, which was a nice touch.  I enjoyed the character of Kate.  She had more spunk to her and more grit.  In fact, I wish that there were more on Kate in the novel.  Interestingly, she claims to have the "second sight" and predicted many things, such as someone's untimely death. 

Conversely, Maggie played by the rules a lot.  She often edited herself, because what she wanted to say wasn't ladylike, which I found to be frustrating.  At times I was proud of her gumption and then other times I wanted to slap her a la Moonstruck and yell, "SNAP OUT OF IT!"  She's an emotional character and readers often found her in bed for days after dealing with an "excitable" event.   This happened mostly when dealing with her sweet-talking beau, Dr. Elisha Kane.  

Dr. Kane is from a well-off Philadelphia family.  He is known as an adventurous Arctic explorer and many consider him a hero.  However, I can't help but think of him as a mama's boy.  I wanted so desperately to like him and to believe him when it came to Maggie, but he was ultimately ruled by his family as many from that time period were.  I was hoping Maggie would needlepoint a pillow that said the famous adage, "Actions speak louder than words" and then hit Kane over the head with it, but that's my personal fantasy.  Maggie never gave up on him; this was her "Mr. Big" if you will.  I don't want to give too much away, but once you read this book, you'll know what I'm talking about. I feel Kane lost out on many things in his life in order to keep his family happy and his reputation stable.  I can't help but wonder if in the end it was all worth it?  Yes, he received many awards and medals during his time, but as of late, he has earned a stamp with his picture on it.  So have The Simpsons.  Just sayin'.  

Dianne Salerni is a local author and a teacher (WOOT!).  I was lucky enough to meet her at a book signing and she was so friendly and nice.  Fortunately,  I grabbed an extra signed copy for one lucky reader.  As you know, I love supporting local authors!   I also found out through Dianne's website that We Hear the Dead as been optioned for a film. I know that this novel would translate to the big screen perfectly.  Fans of historical fiction will love We Hear the Dead and I can't wait to see what Dianne Salerni has up her sleeve next.  Perhaps another local mystery?

*Do you want to win a signed copy of We Hear the Dead?  You must be a follower of my blog in order to enter this giveaway.  This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!  The deadline is July 31st (midnight EST).  I will be using to pick a winner and I will notify the winner through email. If I don't hear from the winner in 48 hours, I will pick a new one.   Please make sure you fill out the form above in order to enter.

*Thanks to all who follow my blog!  I have won so many great books out there in the blogosphere and hopefully I'm paying it forward. 

*Watch the Book Trailer:


  1. I love historical fiction, and wacky hist. fiction at that! Sounds like a great read.

  2. Thanks so much for the contest, this book sounds great!

  3. Cool review. I love that you included your findings :)

  4. No problem, guys! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Awesome review and thanks for te fun giveaway!


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