This novel is subtitled “A Tale of Ghostly Rapping and Romance”, which – since it is aimed at teen or young adult readers – may be a necessary descriptor for a generation more likely to think of rapping as form of recitation rather than a means of communicating with the dead. This account – romance, rapping and all – is a lively and sympathetic account of the Fox sisters, teenagers Maggie and Kate, and their shrewd and domineering older sister Leah.

In the year 1848 Maggie and Kate played a prank on a disliked relative, cracking the joints of their toes and knees to make rapping sounds which they claimed to be made by the ghost of a murdered peddler buried in the cellar of the house where they lived in Hydesville, near Rochester, New York. The girls claimed the ability to communicate with the spirit of the dead man, and in very short order they became celebrities and the inadvertent founders of the spiritualist movement. This was just one of the interesting social/spiritual/political movements springing up rambunctiously across ante-bellum America; including Mormons and the Shakers (and divers other religious enthusiasms) abolition, female suffrage, temperance, all sorts of food fads and filibustering expeditions to vulnerable localities in the Western Hemisphere. Oh, and the odd bit of scientific expeditions here or there, which is how Artic explorer Elisha Kent Kane happened to be making the rounds of the celebrity tour circuit. He was taken with Maggie, and she with him, but he did not approve of her involvement with the spiritualist movement; which seemed to him to be nothing more than a fraud. Maggie herself feels trapped in something which began as a practical joke. But she feels immensely loyal to her family – and what other way does she or her sisters have of making a living? It brings comfort to people, after all, and has brought her celebrity and greater possibilities for her life. Older sister Leah has a family and an invalid husband to support and younger sister Kate – well, Kate truly believes she is communicating with the dead, that her gift is real.

The characters are sympathetically drawn; the girls and their hapless parents, and Elisha who is not quite the dashing all-competent hero that Maggie sees him at first. The background of pre-Civil War America and the various ‘isms’ in ferment is expertly done, and even better – the look at the tabloid driven celebrity culture as it existed in the 1850is is absolutely priceless.

More about “High Spirits” is here, at the authors’ website. “High Spirits” is available from iUniverse, and from Amazon.com.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer who lives in San Antonio; Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com. Both she and Ms. Salerni are members of the Independent Authors Guild.

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