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The Girl who Would Speak for the Dead by…
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The Girl who Would Speak for the Dead

by Paul Elwork

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1833364,645 (3.05)13
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This felt like a book that couldn't decide what it was - the intergenerational saga of an unhappy family, the coming of age of a young girl, the isolated grand house, the ghost whispering, the wise and helpful Negro. It never felt like it quite gelled - maybe too many bits.

But I liked the way Elwork explored the transition of a young girl and the suggestion that with her adolescence came a senstivity to loss and death that reached beyond the parlor tricks she and her brother were engaged in.



( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This is the sort of book I'd love to love, but didn't. I liked it, but I think it could have been a lot better.

It's 1925 and 13-year-old Emily discovers she can make a knocking sound with her ankle, and soon she and her twin brother Michael put on "spirit-knocking" sessions for the neighborhood children. Before long, word spreads to the children's parents, who approach the twins to contact the various family members they've lost and what started out as a prank is fast becoming something a lot more serious. Things get out of hand when Emily agrees to conduct seances with the father of her friend Albert. Albert's older brother had been gay and his father's disapproval drove him to enlist, to prove he was a man, and he was killed in France. Emily thinks she can bring closure to the family, but instead Albert's father becomes more and more dependent on the "contact" with his dead son.

More than anything, this is a coming-of-age story; it was lovely to see Emily grow and mature during the events described. Unfortunately, other characters were less well developed, and some just dropped off the radar altogether. The book contains several flashbacks to the 19th century with tantalizing glimpses of the family's ancestors, sadly they proved almost immaterial to the outcome of the story and didn't really seem to lead anywhere. This book is actually an extended version of The Teahouse, which was published in 2006, and some passages definitely feel tacked on. On the whole, the story didn't really flow and I was disappointed with what could have been a really good book. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Ordinary. I kept waiting for something big but it didn't deliver. ( )
  castironskillet | Aug 13, 2013 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

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.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

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.

Notable Scene:

“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.”

“No.”

“Now, Em, listen, please-“

“No.”

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 what?”

“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. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Aug 6, 2012 |
Well this one was a bust. The blurbs were what sold it to me and after finishing the book I still can't figure out why it got such good blurbs from good writers. Anyway, here it goes: this is the story of 13 year old twins Emily and Michael who one day decide to start scamming people into making them believe that they can contact the dead. As imagined, this scam runs out of control and there are awful consequences as an aftermath. Entertwined is the story of their family heritage and the love triangle between their mother, their dead father and their father's best friend from college. In general, a slow read that kept me going just to see when it would pick up, which sadly, never did. On to the next one! ( )
  AleAleta | Jul 15, 2012 |
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Epigraph
In that far off sweet forever,
Just beyond the shining river,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.


DANIEL DE MARBELLE
Did you ever think as the hearse rolls by
That some of these days you must surely die?


WORLD WAR I HEARSE SONG
Dedication
For my sons,
Elias and Gabriel
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The girl who would speak for the dead stood alone on the cobblestone drive after the rain.
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This book is an expanded version of The Tea House (2007).
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Book description
In 1925, at her family's suburban Philadelphia estate, 13-year-old Emily Stewart discovers she can make a loud rapping noise with her ankle. With her sly twin brother, Michael, Emily entertains gullible schoolmates with "knockings" that spirits purportedly make to answer questions about the afterlife. When adults who have suffered the loss of loved ones start consulting her as a spirit medium, her efforts to give them consolation begin to seem increasingly like cruel deceptions. Based loosely on true events from the early 20th century.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399157174, Hardcover)

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, everything spins wildly out of control.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In 1925, at her family's suburban Philadelphia estate, 13-year-old Emily Stewart discovers she can make a loud rapping noise with her ankle. With her sly twin brother, Michael, Emily entertains gullible schoolmates with "knockings" that spirits purportedly make to answer questions about the afterlife. When adults who have suffered the loss of loved ones start consulting her as a spirit medium, her efforts to give them consolation begin to seem increasingly like cruel deceptions. Based loosely on true events from the early 20th century.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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