If ever there was a religion or belief system that I really wanted to believe was real, it’s Spiritualism. When your loved ones die, they stick around and help you out. If not your loved ones, then spiritual beings from another dimension or something can help you. They leave you presents and help you get parking spaces.
In this book, the author travels to Lily Dale, New York, several times and gets to know the mediums and other residents who live and work there. She participates in the touristy activities--getting readings, going to group meetings–but she also goes behind the scenes and gets to know the characters in the town. She starts the book as a skeptic, and she basically ends as a skeptic too. But in between, she questions both her pre-conceived ideas and what she learns from the mediums.
The author presents the characters as real people that you could imagine knowing, or maybe you do know. And you really want them to be right. They even admit to faking experiences some times to play to their paying crowd, and you still want them to be right. Because what happy and magical lives they lead! What confidence they have in themselves and their own lives! How wonderful life would be if this was all true!
As I mentioned, the author stays a skeptic, but she comes away with more questions than answers. I found this refreshing. The mediums seem to live in a grey zone between the cold hard facts of reality and the magical world of “well, maybe.” And it’s not hurting anyone--in fact, a case could be made for this kind of thinking improving a lot of lives, I think--so why not go for it? If you get a good parking spot, you acknowledge and appreciate it and thank some spiritual being for picking it out for you. And if you don’t get the good parking spot, you shrug and determine that your spiritual guide wanted you to walk farther that day for some reason that’s not yet clear to you. What’s the downside of this, especially in terms of mental and emotional health?
Probably, there are some, and the author certainly struggles with the idea that people should just do what they want to do all the time, knowing that the universe will keep everything on track. But by the end of the book, even if you don’t believe, you’re left wanting to.
Read my reviews on