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Free for Mother’s Day: a Novel about a Supernatural Mother-Daughter Relationship

Free till Wednesday, this novel about paranormal powers springing from a mother-daughter relationship would make the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. It is not surprising that Eusapia, who hangs on to her dead mother with every fiber of her being and finds comfort in her mother’s supernatural visits and encouragements, gets caught up in the spiritualistic beliefs of her time that communication with the dead is possible.

In a gripping tale that spans literary, historical, occult and paranormal categories, R.K.  Marfurt’s first novel brings to life the wretched childhood of Eusapia Palladino in a small Italian village, her evolution into one of Europe’s most successful mediums, and her travels to England, France and North America at the turn of the 20th century.

What actually happens in the séance rooms that soon attract people from all walks of life? What do renowned scientists like Nobel Prize winners Charles Richet and Marie and Pierre Curie find when they investigate her?



Since time eternal, supernatural and paranormal occurrences have intrigued even the most sceptical. Calling the Dead follows in this tradition. R.K. Marfurt’s novel pulls the reader skillfully from distress to seduction, from naïve reality to hallucinations through the meanderings of a complex psychology. Mesmerising from the start, it leads the reader into the turn of the 20th century era of spiritualism in Italy and other countries and into the life of the famous and sought-after Neapolitan medium Eusapia Palladino. It is impossible to resist the supernatural and the magic. In a rich and fluid language, the novel explores a plethora of feelings and situations. The reader can’t help but be swept up as if under the spell of a real séance. A must read.

—Marie-Andrée Donovan, author the award-winning Les soleil incendiés and of À l’ombre du silence


Calling the Dead is an impressive achievement. It is a biographical story full of suspense, a firmly grounded account with a dreamlike quality, an intensely feminine exploration of self in predominantly male environments, a historical narrative with contemporary immediacy.

The novel tells the story of Eusapia Palladino, an Italian medium famous around the turn of the 20th century not just in spiritualistic milieus, which were then relatively numerous and influential, but also more broadly in European elite circles, especially in learned ones. Little is known about Palladino’s childhood, while her adult life is better documented, at least in terms of her mediumship. Yet, this “historical novel” essentially deals with daily life, personal and close relationships, and characters that spring from this context, populate it and become real. These contrasting elements blend together seamlessly without hitches or didacticism, and coalesce into a convincing biography.

A sense of urgency infuses R.K. Marfurt’s writing, transcending any anecdotal doubts the writer may have faced in terms of specific details and features of the period. This gives the book inner strength and intimacy. It is a page turner, which is indeed noteworthy given its biographical nature and its premises.

A last but not less significant quality of the book is the fact that despite, or maybe because of its imaginary daily life and non-didactic features, the reader learns a great deal about the different settings in Eusapia Palladino’s life: rural and urban Italy, spiritualist circles in important European and American cities, and conflicts over spiritualism among leading scientists.

An excellent book: original and engaging.

—by Jose Havet, Professor of Sociology, Ret., University of Ottawa

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