Three brilliant sisters with a gift for showmanship captivate a nation as mediums in this true story from the years leading to the Civil War.
It started as a prank on a prudish older cousin. Two adolescent sisters, Kate and Maggie Fox, convince an entire town that their house is haunted by cracking the joints of their knees, ankles and toes to create the sound of spirits rapping on the walls. No one is more fooled than the girls’ mother, who considers it a miracle that her daughters can communicate with the dead, carrying messages that comfort the bereaved. But it’s their shrewd and toughened older sister, Leah, who sees the trickery’s real potential. With Leah’s theatrics and instinct for showmanship, the girls dazzle the Eastern seaboard by holding spirit circles for some of the most celebrated senators, generals and scientists of the time. Skeptics and witch hunters terrify them early on, yet their mix of cunning and luminous innocence helps them avoid detection. Amazingly, they climb the social ranks from lower-class blacksmith’s daughters to being respected among society’s crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me. But Maggie’s beloved, an upper-class doctor, sees through the charade and promises marriage only if she renounces her spirit-rapping. After Maggie gives up all that she knows, including her means of supporting herself, the doctor’s parents refuse to condone the match, and the man, brave enough to explore the Arctic, is too emotionally weak to fight their will. Their fraught romance underscores the tale’s thematic exploration of early American feminism. Among the Fox sister’s spiritual followers are women involved in the Seneca Falls Convention, and the story is both an argument on the ethics of spiritualism and showmanship as it is the tale of three women, successful at supporting themselves but disparaged by men. The story’s lively pace and dialogue are rife with wit, and the Fox sisters are captivating.
Insightful and a great deal of fun.