Review of We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of We Hear The Dead by Dianne SalerniWe Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. on 2010-05-01
Genres: 19th Century, Historical, Horror & Ghost Stories, Love & Romance, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

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."

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.

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 of We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni 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 handful told in Kate’s perspective. I loved the characterization of Maggie, who is often unsure of herself, yet she starts this whole movement. We Hear The Dead 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 grieving, 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 in We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni 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 echelons 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 We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni, perhaps that is due to my interest in history and spiritualism, however, it didn’t drag. My only complaint is that the dialogue came across as clunky at times, but I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t really mind.

Other Reviews of We Hear The Dead by Dianne Salerni:

My Overstuffed Book Shelf

The following two tabs change content below.
April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I'm glad you liked this one! I had trouble choosing between this and Picture the Dead from the Sourcebooks options, and went with Picture the Dead. But this sounded so good, too! I totally agree with you- history IS awesome. Anyone who disagrees just isn't looking.

  2. Kathleen says

    As a self-confessed history geek myself, I think I would enjoy this one. I've always been fascinated by the people who believe in this stuff when it is so well documented how most of these people are charlatans and con artists who use tricks to deceive grieving people. Great review!

  3. Like Aarti, I also agree with you – history is awesome!
    The way this is told sounds very interesting – alternating first person. I haven't read a book like that in AGES.
    I think I would love this one! Thanks for the gushing review!

  4. Very interesting subject. I've always wondered how people came to believe in spiritualism.


  1. […] may have already read my review for Picture The Dead or We Hear The Dead. If not, please go check out the […]

  2. […] Books by Dianne K. Salerni: We Hear The Dead […]