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All That Lives
by Melinda Sanders-Self

Category: Fiction / Historical
450 pages; ISBN: 0446526916

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner

Review

Early in the nineteenth century in Robertson County, Tennessee, thirteen-year-old Betsy Bell begins hearing strange tapping noises coming from inside the walls of her family home. A few days later, the poltergeist making the noise slaps Betsy in the face and pushes her down to the floor. Yet no visible manifestation is present.

Not long afterward, Reverend Johnston begins a prayer session that he hopes leads to God’s intervention and ultimately removal of the mute demon. However, instead of exorcising the evil essence, the Spirit begins intelligently reciting Scripture in tones that the Reverend envies. Everyone is stunned by the revelation that the invisible voice eloquently speaks scripture. As rocks fall from the sky especially at Betsy and her father, the Spirit prophesies what the future holds for the Bells if certain fatherly molestation does not halt.

If a reader expects that ALL THAT LIVES is a nineteenth century Turn of the Screw or Poltergeist, they will be proven wrong. Instead the novel is more of a period piece that describes life on an 1819-1820 Tennessee farm beset by seemingly supernatural forces. The story line when looked upon as historical speculative fiction as opposed to a supernatural novel is an engaging insightful tale. However, as a supernatural or psychological suspense account of the famous Bell Witch this project falls short, but shows that Melissa Sander-self has the ability to tell a vivid story.

Harriet Klausner

 

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