Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

We Hear the Dead

We Hear the Dead

Dianne K. Salerni
For ages 14 and up
Sourcebooks, 2010   ISBN: 978-1402230929

Kate and Maggie Fox are very displeased when their parents move them away from the town of Rochester to a small village called Hydesville in the country. There is nothing to do in Hydsville, and the house that they are renting is small and uncomfortable. Then, as if this isn’t bad enough, their cousin Lizzie comes to stay. The sisters do not like Lizzie, and after her arrival they decide to play a joke on the large bumbling young woman – they make knocking and cracking noises so that Lizzie thinks that the house is haunted. Maggie and Kate only mean to give Lizzie a scare, but before they know it people from the village are coming to their house to listen to the knocks and rapping, and the girls get caught up in the general excitement. There is so much interest in this incredible phenomenon, that the girls soon find that they cannot confess that they are the ones making the noises, it is just too late to back out now.

It isn’t long before Kate and Maggie’s older sister Leah decides to take matters into her hands. Leah realizes that her sisters’ so-called powers to communicate with the dead could be very lucrative, and soon they are in business in Rochester and in New York City, giving “sittings” to people who want to connect with their dead loved ones. Some people believe that the girls are frauds, while others think that they might be witches. On several occasions, these individuals are aggressive towards the girls. For the most part though, Maggie and Kate are welcomed wherever they go, and people come from far and wide to consult with them. Everything goes well until the day when Maggie meets a man and falls in love for the first time. Now her so-called ‘gift’ does not seem like a gift at all, instead it is a curse.

This remarkable book looks at the lives of the three women who are many consider to be the founders of the Spiritualist religious movement. The tale is told from both Kate’s and Maggie’s point of view, and it is interesting to see how Kate, unlike her sister, truly believes that the dead are using her as a conduit to talk to the living. Though we cannot condone their deceptions, at the same time we do come to understand that the girls truly think that they are helping people, that they are giving grieving men and women some peace of mind.

Beautifully combining fact and fiction, the author of this book perfectly captures the struggles the Fox sisters experienced as they tried to come to terms with what they were doing, and as they tried to separate their identities from their bizarre lifestyle.