We Hear the Dead

We Hear the Dead

by Dianne Salerni


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402230929
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/01/2010
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 600,802
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Lexile: 1070L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

DIANNE K. SALERNI is an elementary school teacher, author, and online book reviewer. She has previously published educational materials for teachers, as well as short stories. We Hear the Dead is her first full-length novel. With her husband and her two daughters, Salerni lives in Pennsylvania, where she is at work on her novel.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One:

I was not happy about leaving the cheerful and bustling city of Rochester for the dreary, vacant countryside of Wayne County. I had just turned fourteen, and I thought that being banished to "frontiersland" would be the end of my life.
To make matters worse, the rooms that my family rented in Rochester had become unavailable because the owner, Mr. Isaac Post, had sold the house. It was necessary to move out of our lodg­ings before the new home was built, so my father rented a small house within the town limits of Hydesville.

Hydesville wasn't much of a town, as far as I was concerned, and ours wasn't much of a house. Its best feature was a south-facing parlor with several windows to brighten the room. The kitchen, however, was dark and dreary. The house's single bedroom received sunlight only in the morning. There was a buttery off the kitchen, and a cobwebbed attic over the back half of the house. The abso­lutely most horrible part of the house was the cellar.

Kate and I explored it while Father and David moved furniture above us. Foul water squelched around our shoes, bubbling up from the damp earth floor. The wood beams supporting earthen walls leaned inward at an alarming angle, giving the unsettling impression of imminent collapse.

"It smells like an open grave," I stated in disgust.

"To be sure," answered Kate, "and there lies the corpse." She pointed at the darkest corner of the cellar, where I could dimly make out a mound of loose earth piled carelessly against a crooked wall.

"What are you girls doing down there?"

The voice made us jump. We turned and saw my father leaning in through the doorway, peering at us in the dim light.

I opened my mouth, ready to burst out with fresh complaints about moving into a house built over a pauper's cemetery. But Kate took my hand firmly and spoke before me. "We were just curious, Father." She led me toward the stairs, and I followed silently, without voicing my opinion.

Hydesville was less a town than a cluster of houses and farms that had grown up around a tavern, which later closed down and left the townsfolk wondering why they had come. My mother, I know, was relieved to see the boarded doors on the old Hyde's Tavern. She had forgiven her husband for his years of drunkenness but had never quite forgotten.

We had lived in the Hydesville house less than two weeks when a letter from my sister Leah arrived, telling us to expect her daughter to arrive by canal boat within a few days. Lizzie was coming "to lend us a hand." Only Leah could imagine that feeding and housing another person under our present circumstances would be a help. Especially Lizzie, a great big horse of a girl with the brains of a cow and the liveliness of a fencepost.

Leah obviously needed to be rid of Lizzie for her own purposes. Perhaps she wanted to put a boarder in the girl's room to make extra money. Leah held piano lessons and rented rooms but always seemed to be in an endless state of acquiring funds. Whenever she could persuade my parents to feed, clothe, and shelter her daughter, she did so.

Anticipating Lizzie's arrival did not improve my outlook on the house, Hydesville, or the dismal end of my former life. Kate and I moaned and threw fits, but Lizzie was already on her way, and our mother actually looked forward to her arrival. Honestly, I cannot tell why, unless it was simply because she was the eldest grandchild and the daughter of her precious Leah. Lizzie did not resemble my sister, who was pretty and bold and the center of any gathering of people. I never met Mr. Bowman Fish, who ran off to marry a rich widow when Lizzie was only a baby, but I imagine that he must have resembled his own name and passed those features on to his daughter.

"Lizzie Fish is a stinky old cod," Kate chanted out of the hearing of our parents.

"Face like a path where the oxen trod," I rejoined, turning the jump rope, which we had tied to a tree.

"Screwed up little eyes and pale, thin hair-"

"For a penny and a half I would push her down the stair."

"How many steps did Lizzie fall down?"


My seventeen-year-old niece, Lizzie, was the least important person in this entire story-and also the most important. She was the reason for everything that was to come: the rapping, the lecture halls, the spirit circles, and the messages from the dead.

Kate and I did not like Lizzie. We did not look forward to her arrival, and we resented sharing our bed with her.

Everything that happened-everything-was originally just a plan to scare Lizzie and make her go home.

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix
Confessions xi
Part One: The Haunting of Hydesville 1
Part Two: The Rise of a Religion 69
Part Three: The Affair and the Adventurer 185
Part Four: Education and Exile 283
Part Five: Folly and Fate 361
Afterword 423
A Final Word 425
Want to Read More? 426
Acknowledgments 427
About the Author 429

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We Hear the Dead 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
pagese More than 1 year ago
I liked this book for the most part. I feel the description is a little misleading though. I got the impression it has more to do with the actual spiritualism movement and the Fox sister's involvement. It's there, but it feels more like the background story. The story is more personal than that. It's told from both Maggie's and Kate's point of view. But, the story seems to focus more on Maggie. I think she had issues deceiving people from the very beginning. The book is more about her inner struggle with that. She liked the fame in brought her. Especially when it introduced her to Elisha Kent. That's when the story becomes more of a romance. Maggie has to choose between her family and spiritualism and her new found feelings for him. I have to say I didn't like Elisha much. I don't know if he truly cared for Maggie. It seemed like he was more interested in molding her to be what he thought she should be. In the end, I felt sorry for Maggie and all she had to endure at the hands of Elisha and his family. The story was interesting and well written. I just wanted more of the spiritualism and seances. I thought it was interesting that Maggie played along while in the end I think Kate really truly believed she was being guided by the dead.
Mother-Daughter-Book-Club More than 1 year ago
Maggie 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.
bplteen on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Review by: Grace J We Hear the Dead is based on the true story of Maggie and Kate Fox, who are credited with discovering spiritualism, or conversing with the spirits of the dead. It tells the story of how the girls accidentally discovered spiritualism by playing a prank on their niece to scare her out of their house. As the story goes on, Maggie Fox falls in love with the most celebrated explorer of the time, Elisha Kane, but his family and their social classes create a conflict between them. The book is a combination of historical fiction and romance, both of which I love, but the writing style seems to be a strange combination of modern and archaic speech, which is awkward. Review by: Mattie Finally! This is just what I was looking for.
twonickels on LibraryThing 8 months ago
About once a year, sad-eyed teens wander into my library, sigh, and tell me that their teacher is making them read historical fiction. Now most of the time I can send the boys away happy ¿ here in my library the words ¿Walter Dean Myers¿ and ¿Vietnam War¿ work wonders ¿ but a certain type of girl groans at everything I pull out and casts sad eyes towards the Twilight books and whatever PC Cast happens to be on the shelf that day. They¿re looking for a little bit of the supernatural and a whole lot of romance, but it¿s got to be realistic fiction with a strong historical bent. And Dianne Salerni has found a story that a history teacher and a teenage girl can get equally excited about.Kate and Maggie Fox only meant to play a practical joke, but their ability to make loud rapping noises with their joints ¿ combined with a few strange coincidences ¿ have the whole town convinced that the young sisters can converse with the dead. And when their shrewd Aunt Leah gets involved, the girls find themselves in the center of the newly formed Spiritualist movement, with their services highly desired for seances and sittings. A rift grows between Maggie, who struggles with her conscience as their growing fame and need for secrecy make her more and more uncomfortable, and Kate, who is either completely convinced that their talent is genuine or a frighteneningly good liar. The narrative is split between the two girls with Maggie getting the majority of the chapters ¿ which is a good choice, since Kate¿s chapters are told from the perspective of someone who is either crazy or an incredible manipulator, neither of which make her easy to relate to as a narrator. Maggie, on the other hand, is easy to sympathize with as she is swept up in a series of events that are often beyond her control.It¿s a compelling piece of history ¿ the kind of history that just begs for the YA treatment. And Salerni has clearly done her research, both on the Fox sisters and on the period. Details are vivid, and the narrative touches on other important historical movements of the time in interesting ways, particularly women¿s liberation. In the second half of the book, Maggie¿s relationship with a famous Arctic explorer provides some wonderful opportunities to explore issues of class, gender, and power in the late 19th Century. While Salerni¿s historical accuracy and clear love for the period and the story are welcome, they do lead to one of my pet peeves for historical fiction based on a true story ¿ Salerni¿s desire to tell every part of the Fox sisters¿ story means that this book is loooooong. We Hear the Dead is strongest in the beginning, when the sisters were first caught up in their deceptions, and in the second half, when Maggie¿s love interest provides a firm plot arc for her character. The central part of the book, which relates a part of the Fox sisters¿ story that does not have as natural a narrative arc, did not always hold my interest as a reader. A tighter focus would have benefitted the book and made it a little bit more approachable in terms of length. Despite that reservation, Salerni tells an engaging story that will appeal to many teens.
booksandwine on LibraryThing 8 months ago
We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni centers around the spiritualist movement and it's creators -- the Fox Sisters. What began as a not-so-innocent prank turned into a somewhat religious movement. The history of the Fox Sisters is fascinating, I suggest wikipaedia-ing it. Seriously, ya'll, history is AWESOME. So sayeth the history nerd.The story is told in alternating first person. By alternating, I mean the majority of the chapters are told through the eyes of Maggie Fox with a handfold told in Kate's perspective. I loved the characterization of Maggie, who is often unsure of herself, yet she starts this whole movement. The book lays a strong foundational background, so I never felt confused at the action. We are given an introductory scene showing the origins of spiritualism. The story progresses in a linear fashion, there's not many flashbacks.To me though, the best parts are all of the little details, like how they got people to believe in the spirits. The Fox Sisters communicated with the spirits via rapping. NOT rapping like Kanye, but rapping as in knocking on wood. It was hard for me to fathom why on earth anyone would believe the dead communicated by knocking. However, history shows us that spiritualism had large numbers of believers, especially among the intellectuals. I suppose this does make sense as we have people dying left and right, a whole generation about to be lost in the Civil War. I know the power of suggestion is quite strong, look at con artists like John Edwards of Crossing Over fame. When people are greiving, they want to take comfort in knowing the departed are in a better place. So yes, I suppose it is possible to wholeheartedly believe and be open to the knocking communication.Another element I found incredibly intriguing was the inclusion of the social movements taking place during this time period. Discussed is the abolition movement as well as the women's rights movement, I mean Elizabeth Cady Stanton makes an appearance. How cool, right? I loved this inclusion, it wasn't overwhelming and I thought it a great way to hook and engage the young reader into hopefully delving deeper into history. I liked that is is presented in a way that is relatable to the teenaged lens. Juxtaposed with this is a study of classism. Maggie is a working girl, yet her love interest is from the upper eschelons of society. Cue star-crossing. Anyways, she's made to jump through all these hoops, give up certain things, yet she is never good enough for that reach of society, because she earns money.I rather enjoyed this book, perhaps that is due to my interest in history and spiritualism, however, it didn't drag. My only complaint is that the dialogue came acorss as clunky at times, but I was so absorbed in the story that I didn't really mind.
EKAnderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Man. I¿m not a big person for history. Wait, that¿s a lie. I majored in CLASSICS for crying out loud. I love history. But sometimes reading about it can be dry. I have yet to meet a history textbook that I could befriend. And my high school history teacher? Let¿s just say she and I never saw eye to eye. But that doesn¿t mean I can¿t get sucked in by a good historical fiction ¿ especially a story filled with intrigue based on the lives of some really real ¿ really spooky ¿ sisters.Dianne K. Salerni`s WE HEAR THE DEAD is as riveting as it is mysterious. If you haven¿t heard of the Fox sisters, you¿ll want to know everything about them by the time you¿re finished with Salerni`s story. Maggie Fox ¿ the narrator for most of the story ¿ never meant for a prank to turn into a nationwide phenomenon. When her much older sister Leah¿s daughter Lizzie comes to visit, Maggie and her younger sister Kate are none too thrilled. Lizzie is seventeen, slightly older than Maggie and Kate, and not the brightest crayon in the box. So when Kate and Maggie insinuate that the sounds coming from the bedroom of their rental house might be ghosts, Lizzie falls for it instantly.Before long, the Fox girls¿ parents are looking around for the source of the sounds, followed by the neighbors. Soon, Kate and Maggie are so entrenched in their prank that they can¿t turn it around. They¿re making ¿rapping¿ noises to feign spirit communication and are acting as mediums. And when Leah finds out, she tells Kate and Maggie they have a choice: do what she says and take their act to a whole new level, or be exposed.As the girls move around the Northeast promoting Spiritualism, Maggie falls deeper and deeper into the ruse, while Kate begins to believe that she actually has ¿the sight.¿ Sometimes the girls are met as celebrities, and sometimes chased away as witches, their notoriety building with every ¿spirit circle.¿ Maggie worries about her sister, and constantly must reconcile her deception with the good she hopes it brings her customers. But when she meets famed explorer, the young, charming Dr. Elisha Kane, who believes that Maggie is better than her life as a supposed medium, and love could be her undoing.Part mystery, part romance, part history and all drama, WE HEAR THE DEAD is a true page-turner that even the ¿I only read nonfiction¿ types won¿t be able to put down. And while it works solidly as YA, with all its 1850s charm and the strong narrative voice, I¿d love to see this title cross-marketed in adult historical fiction sections. I can¿t wait to see what Dianne Salerni comes out with next!
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