Book Chat’s rating: ∗∗∗∗∗/5
I drive pass Walt Whitman bridge many many times but it never crossed my mind what kind of person Walt Whitman is. I do realize that this book is a work of fiction, but I’m glad someone like J. Aaron Sanders did spend the time to research to make a good blend for facts and fiction into this wonderful work. As the author said in the note, between 1842 and 1855 when Walt Whitman first wrote the average temperance piece Franklin Evans and his masterpiece Leaves of Grass, there must have been some changes in his life that force the author to “come out” with strong and powerful verses about everything American. Speakers of the Dead is the fruit of the imagination of J. Aaron Sanders to answer his own mystery.
Walt Whitman arrives too late when his beloved friend Lena Stowes was hanged for killing her husband – a crime she didn’t commit. Lena and Abraham Stowes, the founder of the Women College of Medicine, were involved in with a group of body-snatching that stole dead body for profits. When Abraham was trying to get the Bone Bill to pass to legalize the use of dead body for medical research, he got in the way of the body-snatchers and was killed in a horrific way, and the evidence was set up to make it looks like it was his wife that did the crime out of jealousy for his infidelity. This was not a story of who dunit but more of how do we catch the killer?
During the course of the investigation, Whitman found and lost his love – Henry Saunders, and explored different aspect of hetero-sexuality with Miss Zacky; witnessed the floods of immigration flocking into New York City; assisted the changes for medical researched in trying to understand the business of body snatching… Pretty much everything that is a Whitman’s signature theme was included in the book which makes it interesting to read.
That is not to say the book is without flaws even though I gave it five stars. There are parts that I couldn’t understand how it is connected such as why Whitman want to exonerate Lena’s body for investigation (she was hanged) instead of Abraham (his was not exonerated until almost the end), the lack of details on how dissection helps the learning of the students (it seems that they were just dissect a body when the body is available without any purposes… maybe only to see the organs?), etc. But as the author said in the note, the book did inspire me to look into some of the real characters portrayed in the book such as Miss Elizabeth Blackwell, I think it’s worth a read.