Author: Paul Elwork
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: March 31, 2011
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
ISBN-10: 042524542X (Penguin/Berkley)
ISBN-13: 978-0425245422 (Penguin/Berkley)
Reviewed by: Sheila
The innocence of childhood,
the unknown of adulthood,
and the search for forgiveness . . .
Emily Stewart is the girl who claims to stand between the living and the dead. During the quiet summer of 1925, she and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins-privileged, precocious, wandering aimlessly around their family’s estate. One day, Emily discovers that she can secretly crack her ankle in such a way that a sound appears to burst through the stillness of midair. Emily and Michael gather the neighborhood children to fool them with these “spirit knockings.”
Soon, however, this game of contacting the dead creeps into a world of adults still reeling from World War I. When the twins find themselves dabbling in the uncertain territory of human grief and family secrets- knock, knock-everything spins wildly out of control.
Quick & Dirty: A slow and torturous journey into sibling boredom.
Opening Sentence: The girl who would speak for the dead stood alone on the cobblestone drive after the rain.
There are very few books that I have a hard time reading; science manuals, anything recommended to me by my cousin, and this book. Why, you ask? Was it too long? Written in a foreign language? No, it was boring and too slow. I tried reading this book four times; it just went on and on and on…
The premise of this book is a set of twins in 1925 that get bored and decide to start a game where they fool people into believing that they are contacting the dead through spirit knocking, a noise the girl twin can make with her ankle. Like most things, it grew beyond their small group of friends and starting garnering the attentions of a few adults and one con artist. Great idea for a book, beautifully written prose, excellent allusions and imagery but it flows like a journal written for pleasure and not for posterity.
The twins, Michael and Emily Stewart, are a capricious lot. They act without thinking of the consequences; like all 14-year-olds do. Being a parent, I wanted to yell at them and their mom for the damage that they are responsible for; them for doing it, and their mom for not being more involved before it got out of hand. They may be on the cusp of adulthood but that doesn’t mean they should be left without the benefit of council. Honestly, these characters make me mad more than any other emotion.
There is no true climax to this story, just a resolution to a situation. There are lots of references to family skeletons and such, and the timeline waffled back and forth between the twins’ time and their ancestors. It left me feeling cheated that I took the time to invest into this book in the first place. I would have enjoyed it more if I had nothing better to read or do with my time. Overall, The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead holds no action or magic; it’s only a cautionary tale of a game getting out of hand.
“What was all that talk about never including adults, Michael?” Emily asked, closing the book. “About the risk?”
“I told that to Albert, Emily”
“You told everyone.”
“That was before. Things have developed since then.”
“Now, Em, listen, please-“
And so it went for a time. Finally, Michael said, “Why won’t you do it?”
“Because it can only lead to trouble. And…”
“And it’s not nice. Tricking people.”
“Tricking people? Em, these people want to see you perform, that’s all.”
“Fine. Then let’s tell them how the trick is done. Tell them it’s a show.”
“Now, Em, be reasonable. Does a magician tell the crowd how his tricks are done?”
“Are we magicians now, Michael?”
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Berkley graciously provided me with a copy of The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. The only payments I receive are hugs and kisses from my little boys.
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