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The In-Betweens: Book summary and reviews of The In-Betweens by Mira Ptacin

The In-Betweens

The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna

by Mira Ptacin

The In-Betweens by Mira Ptacin X
The In-Betweens by Mira Ptacin
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About this book

Book Summary

A young writer travels to Maine to tell the unusual story of America's longest-running camp devoted to mysticism and the world beyond.

They believed they would live forever. So begins Mira Ptacin's haunting account of the women of Camp Etna―an otherworldly community in the woods of Maine that has, since 1876, played host to generations of Spiritualists and mediums dedicated to preserving the links between the mortal realm and the afterlife. Beginning her narrative in 1848 with two sisters who claimed they could speak to the dead, Ptacin reveals how Spiritualism first blossomed into a national practice during the Civil War, yet continues―even thrives―to this very day.

Immersing herself in this community and its practices―from ghost hunting to releasing trapped spirits to water witching― Ptacin sheds new light on our ongoing struggle with faith, uncertainty, and mortality. Blending memoir, ethnography, and investigative reportage, The In-Betweens offers a vital portrait of Camp Etna and its enduring hold on a modern culture that remains as starved for a deeper sense of connection and otherworldliness as ever.

25 black-and-white photographs

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Ptacin, who is receptive to the spiritual experiences and stories of the community, delivers her narrative evenhandedly and with genuine curiosity. This is an eye-opening and informative peek into a little-known but influential community." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"An eye-opening, consistently fascinating, and engrossing profile of the modern spiritualist movement." - Kirkus Reviews

"The In-Betweens is a truly fascinating history of a little-known American community of Spiritualists. I'd never heard of Camp Etna before reading this book, and I can't imagine how I'd missed it. This is a story of a deeply female, fiercely autonomous, open-hearted and searching group of spiritual seekers, whose ranks have refused for well over a century to comply with any conventional ideas about religion, power, and women. Ptacin approaches her subjects with a mind that is both open and enthusiastic, without ever losing her keen reporter's edge. It's a brilliant work, and a fabulous read." - Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Signature of All Things and Eat, Pray, Love

"Deft, immersive, and smart, The In-Betweens is a marvelous exploration of a lost bit of history as well as a journalist's deep dive into the idiosyncratic world of American Spiritualism. How lucky we are that Ptacin stumbled onto Camp Etna! The book is equal parts funny and strange and surreal, and entirely engaging." - Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book

The information about The In-Betweens shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Jennie R. (Highland, CA)

Very informative!
Before reading 'The In-Betweens' I knew very little about Spiritualism and its history. I didn't even realize mediums had an organized 'religion' complete with churches. I very much enjoyed the education provided by this informative and unbiased book, and extend my thanks to Ms. Ptacin for writing it. I think anyone with an open mind and even a modicum of curiosity will enjoy it as well. The author shows a great level of respect and openness toward the members of Camp Etna, and it's mirrored back to her in the way the mediums accept her and openly answer her questions, even try to educate her in their ways. This book would likely generate a lively and interesting discussion in a book club, so I'm considering recommending to my group.

Annie P. (Murrells Inlet, SC)

The In-Betweens
The In-Betweens by Mira Ptacin is a textbook on the many facets of spirituality and the 140-year history of Camp Etna, Maine. Ms. Ptacin went to the source to meet spiritualists and explore Camp Etna; she immersed herself in the study of spiritualism by actually living at Camp Etna. In the beginning of the book, Ms. Ptacin seemed dissatisfied, not with her family, but in finding a meaning to life. This was something different; a deeply personal search to discover herself. She mentioned she was raised a Catholic but didn't like formal religion. I think she found what she was looking for by immersing herself in spiritualism.

The In-Betweens is a book of a nontraditional religion which was full of tradition, hierarchy, and colorful characters whom you personally meet in the pages of this book: from the Fox Sisters who made Camp Etna, to spiritualists, mediums - both physical and mental, table tippers, psychics, ghost hunters, dowsers, transfigurationists, readers, and many more.

The In-Betweens is a great source for the reader who has always wanted a comprehensive study on spiritualists and spiritualism.

Carole P. (Framingham, MA)

The In-Betweens
Spiritualists, mediums and communicating with the dead. All subjects I have been intrigued by and believe in. While there are many books on these subjects, some are dry and seem more like a textbook than anything else. Or they are filled with photos of " spirits". Mira Ptacin has written a book that flows. Yes it is fascinating, whether you believe or not. Spiritualism has been around a long time, but really took hold in this country in the mid 1800s. It is still going strong today. The first case of note took place in 1848 when two sisters communicated with spirits. Camp Etna was created in the 1870s in Maine. When Ms Ptacin was given free access to the camp, she interviewed participants, read historical papers and books on the subject and participated herself.

I loved the everything about this book. The subject is fascinating. The writing is readable , giving you an understanding of a complex subject. If you are already a believer this will support all those beliefs. If not, well it may make one of you. In my life I have met several spirits. When I have talked about it, I find people with their own stories. Most of us keep it quiet. Thank you Mira for encouraging us not to.

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

In depth book on an interesting topic
I am fascinated by the invisible, the forces that we can't see (communication with those who have passed, ESP, clairvoyance, premonitions, intuition, e.g.) Some pooh-pooh them; I consider them energies and powers that are accessible, but most of us have gotten a long way from tuning in to them. Ms Ptacin deals in great depth with all of her topics, including ghosts, water witching, auras and even Houdini. She offers a thorough history of the Spiritualist movement and some of its colorful characters. The information on each topic is exhaustive - in many cases, more than I needed. I ended up picking the parts that appealed to me and skimming some sections that had more history or detail than I wanted. I applaud Ms Ptacin for the depth of her research in a fascinating subject with many facets.

Ariel F. (Madison, WI)

Interesting and informative!
I have long had an interest in Spiritualism and Mediums. This book gave me a perfect opportunity to learn about them as well as Camp Etna. Having never heard of Camp Etna I was immediately drawn in to understanding communicating with the dead. Ptacin's linkage of feminism and Spiritualism and the role of women made me sit down and think about the parallels.
The chapter about the Healing Light Spiritualist Church was extremely interesting. The prayer was especially meaningful to me. If I lived closer, I would take a class and attend the church service. I feel that I could gain a lot. I am happy that BookBrowse provided me with this opportunity to gain knowledge.

Nancy H. (Foster City, CA)

History meets personal quest
Would you be comforted or frightened to learn that after leaving this life, the spirit of a loved one still exists and can still communicate with you? Believers in the religion of Spiritualism believe this is possible. Author Mira Ptacin explains some of the history of Spiritualism in the U.S., using the specifics of formerly glorious Camp Etna, Maine to provide context and explain their beliefs and how a number of mediums experience the world and hope to use their special abilities to help others. The many distinctions she draws are quite interesting and gave a good basic understanding of the variety of practices the members seek to develop in their effort to refine their special abilities.

Throughout most of the book I had the feeling that the author was hoping to make discoveries that would be of value to her personal journey - beyond just authoring a book. She seemed conflicted about what to believe and what to refuse; what to take heart from and what to scorn. Every time she made a catty little aside about someone's appearance, I was taken aback - not sure what those comments were supposed to add.

Near the end, she also describes her experiences while attending the annual Attean Family Powwow and describes similarities between gatherings of Spiritualists and First Nations People.

In years to come, it would be very interesting to hear the author discuss how her conclusions develop and change over the next few years as she becomes more comfortable with her experiences.

...15 more reader reviews

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More Information

The author of the acclaimed memoir Poor Your Soul, Mira Ptacin has written for NPR, Guernica, New York, Tin House, and Vice, among other publications. She teaches memoir-writing to women at the Maine Correctional Center and lives on Peaks Island, Maine.

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