I’ve just finished reading this intriguing book of historical fiction by Noëlle Sickels called The Medium. I highly recommend it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it is a good read and an easy read. It is the very human story of a young German-American girl, Helen Schneider, living with her family in Bergen County, New Jersey during the prelude to World War II and throughout the war to its conclusion. There are home vignettes and love stories embedded within the novel that are poignant.

But more than that it is the story of the experience of mediumship within a family. The girl’s grandmother is a medium by trade and holds seances in the neighborhood to augment the family’s income. Helen begins having premonitions and when she attends a seance at her grandmother’s urging she discovers her ability to converse with spirits while in a trance state. This realization both intrigues and frightens Helen who must come to terms with her burgeoning psychic and mediumistic abilities.

The story is very believable in most aspects, especially in the geographic references and the rich cultural milieu of the German-American family. Some readers may balk at the concept of emanations, that is physical manifestations emerging from the body during a trance. There is a nineteenth century quality about emanations. But the reference to remote viewing near the end of the book is an anachronism which is more disturbing since it comes thirty years too early. I have no doubt that the military intelligence of the day would be interested in the correct perceptions of a gifted psychic, but to refer to the remote viewing program, a phrase that was not coined until the 1970’s, tarnishes the very careful research done on many aspects of the American scene presented here. I felt very educated by the book concerning detention centers for German and Italian Americans that I was unaware had existed. The training for blind soldiers returning from the war was detailed and well woven into the thread of the story.

You will enjoy reading this book.

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