The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna

Liveright Norton. Oct. 2019. 304p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781631493812. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631493829. HIST
Ptacin (Poor Your Soul) uses the history of Maine’s Camp Etna to explore the nature of spiritualism and its uniquely American emphasis on individualism and autonomy. Beginning with a discussion of spiritualism’s early connection to the women’s suffrage movement, Ptacin focuses on the faith’s rich tradition of female leadership, sharing stories of women, past and present, who have practiced, shaped, and promoted the religion. Writing about her time spent in the company of the mediums of Camp Etna during its 141st summer in operation, Ptacin reflects on spiritualism’s place in an increasingly secular culture, the changes and controversies in the camp’s management, and the nature of faith itself. But this is as much a meditation on healing as a history of a spiritualist camp. With great empathy and insight, Ptacin shows how spiritualist practices have aided the healing process in the lives of its practitioners, followers, and in Ptacin herself.
VERDICT A colorful, quirky, and ultimately moving look at a misunderstood faith and the iron-willed women who continue to sustain it.

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