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Sister Séance is set in Concord, Massachusetts, just after the Civil War. Spiritualism is sweeping the nation when a Halloween celebration calls for a traditional “dumb supper,” a dinner party where no guest may speak but must convey needs and desires through nonverbal communication. After the dumb supper, mysterious intruders shock the guests into confronting their pasts, uniting abolitionists, freed people, former slaveholders, a matchmaker, the single women who are her boarders, wounded Civil War veterans, and a female photographer pregnant with the child of her former slave.
This project was supported by an American Antiquarian Society William Randolph Hearst Creative Artist Fellowship.
History is horror in Aimee Parkison's unflinching and dreamlike SISTER SÉANCE. I was entranced from page one.
—Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song
The Civil War left in its wake a world of black veils, vials of tears, amputations, psychic scars, prosthetics, séances, battle scars, missing people. Aimee Parkison weaves a web of photographers, freed people, preachers, veterans, and sets of twins to conjure a world where the boundaries between the living and the dead are as permeable as the past is with our present. Here, the shadow of a spirit might appear in a photograph, or a paraffin glove take on the shape of an amputated hand, while the spirit of the tragedy that was slavery sits at every meal. The novel is a séance itself, inviting the dead to commune with our conscience. A haunting achievement.
—Steve Tomasula, author of Once Human: Stories
This book brings to life the nineteenth century’s fascination with contacting the dead—and the traumatic memories and secret desires that these dead souls reveal about the living. Just as Viv Hayden’s photographs tell the stories of the lives of her sitters, Parkison’s novel provides an intimate exploration of the lives of women in post-Civil War America and how those lives were haunted by the atrocities of war and slavery. Sister Seance is a welcome addition to the tradition of women’s horror writing.
—Melissa Edmundson, author of Women's Ghost Literature in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Women's Weird: Strange Stories by Women, 1890-1940
- Review in Grab the Lapels