The story of Victorian medium Daniel Home, based on actual history. James King’s novel is a deeply moving story of a man tormented by and unsure of his gift, the ability to communicate with the dead. Home, a socially inept man passed around his extended family like a Christmas fruitcake as a child, grows up never sure whether the skeptics aren’t right to label him a fraud. And even at his most self-assured he never thinks that he’s more than an entertainer. King paints a deeply compassionate portrait of this fish out of water. For him, interest lies not in the sensational aspects of speaking with the dead but in the way that Home’s gift, real or not, raises a set of three characters from the death-in-life they had suffered through. Cameos by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert, Anthony Trollope, Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln. In his ability to inhabit widely diverse characters and sympathetically illuminate their humanity, King reminds me of Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson. He deserves to be much better known.
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