Book Review: The Reluctant Spiritualist The Life of Maggie Fox by Nancy Rubin Stuart

It’s been a few years since I first read this book so revisiting it for the purpose of this review was like seeing a much loved friend again.

The Reluctant Spiritualist is a top ten for me. It has all of the ingredients that I love and that are a part of this blog. Maggie Fox wasn’t simply a Spiritualist she was one of the first if not THE first. It was the rapping on their walls in 1848 that set the wheels of Modern Spiritualism in motion.

Maggie-Fox1

Maggie Fox

Spiritualism is, “the Science, Philosophy, and Religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the Spirit World.” – From the NSAC home page accessed Saturday, August 17, 2013.

I love biographies.

The best biographies are better than any fiction I have ever read. This one was written by Nancy Rubin Stuart. You may access Nancy’s home page here: Nancy Rubin Stuart
Her own biography says that she is, “an award-winning author and journalist who specializes in women, biography, and social history.”

Of all the books a person can choose to write I think biography must be the most challenging and the most rewarding.

Think of the skills a talented biographer must possess: she must be a tenacious researcher, she must understand history and context – social, cultural and political, she must be a journalist, she must care deeply for her subject matter, and above all she must be able to tie all the research together into a tell-able, readable story for the rest of us. I admire skilled biographers and Nancy is among the best.

In our world any one can write a book and anyone can get a book published. It is not that hard to do I should know I’ve done it. The Reluctant Spiritualist was published by Harcourt. Harcourt is a serious publisher with respectable journalistic standards and any serious treatment of historic or biographic subject matter is going to be examined and cross examined by those with an interest in the period or subject. What I am trying to say in a much too long winded fashion is that The Reluctant Spiritualist is good history.

Nancy checked her facts, she did her homework, and she did right by Maggie Fox. She produced a book that is as enjoyable to read as it is informative. I thought I knew Maggie when I bought the book. I had been a devote Spiritualist for years but I learned so much that I didn’t already know about this magnificent woman of history from reading this book.

What I like best about this biography is the sympathy and understanding with which it is told. Even Spiritualist historians have been unkind to Maggie. Nancy on the other hand brought Maggie out of the pages of history, out of the quagmire of religious debate, and into my heart. Maggie became a human being under Nancy’s skilled research. The complications, sorrows, and joys of her life became real for me and they will for anyone who chooses to read this masterpiece. Oh and one thing more, The Reluctant Spiritualist tells intimately of Maggie’s one true love and how that love shaped and influenced her life.

The Reluctant Spiritualist is not Spiritualist propaganda. It is good history and it is a great read. Even if you don’t believe for one minute that the dead can speak, do yourself a favor and read a book that you will never forget not because it will convince you of Maggie’s authenticity as a medium but because it tells a very human story about a very human life.

Much love dear friends,
David

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