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We Hear the Dead    by Dianne K. Salerni order for
We Hear the Dead
by Dianne K. Salerni
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2010 (2010)
Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Imagine performing a prank so well that you end up convincing almost the entire nation that you have psychic powers. That is exactly what happens to Maggie and Kate Fox. We Hear the Dead is Dianne K. Salerni's fictional account of Maggie's life.

After the Fox family moves to Hydesville, New York with their two youngest daughters, Maggie and Kate, the eldest Fox daughter, Leah, sends her own daughter to help out. As the Foxes are living in a one-bedroom rental cabin while Mr. Fox works on their house (next to their only son's house), quarters become quite cramped. Based on the spooky vibes everyone has from the creepy basement, fourteen-year-old Maggie and eleven-year-old Kate conspire to scare their seventeen-year-old niece by producing rapping noises with their joints.

When even their parents cannot find the source of the strange sounds, neighbors are called in. Soon the whole town of Hydesville is coming to see the Fox girls to communicate with the dead. When a newspaper article brings word of her sisters' doings to Leah, she brings the girls to Rochester and soon finds a way to profit from their talent. Soon, spiritualism is taking the world by storm, but not everyone is convinced. One such holdout is Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, a world-renowned explorer who falls in love with Maggie. Maggie returns his feelings, but she does not know if she can quit the family business in order to be with him, or if his prestigious family will accept a girl like her.

While We Hear the Dead does contain passages from Kate's point of view, it is really Maggie's story. Maggie is the type of headstrong heroine you find in today's literature and not so much a type you would find anywhere in the mid-1800s - which is one thing that makes Salerni's novel so appealing. While this is historical fiction, the reader is never hit over the head with history, and aside from tidbits woven in that set the date, it reads like any story set in the modern day. However, like any good historical fiction, it makes the reader want to go and find out more about the main characters and the time they lived in.

We Hear the Dead is a very engaging story that will appeal not only to the young adult audience it is geared towards but also adults who are interested in the Fox sisters and the start of spiritualism. Dianne K. Salerni is a gifted writer and I hope to see more of her in the future as We Hear the Dead is her debut novel.

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