Gorgeously envisioned, The Magnetic Girl is set at a time when the emerging presence of electricity raised suspicions about the other-worldly gospel of Spiritualism, and when women’s desire for political, cultural, and sexual presence electrified the country. Read More
In this gorgeously envisioned debut, set as the emergence of electricity and women’s desire for political, cultural, and sexual power electrified the country, a young woman’s rise to Vaudeville fame exposes secrets of her family’s past—and the keys to her own future.
In rural north Georgia two decades after the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Lulu Hurst discovers an obscure book by legendary Mesmerist Henrietta Wolf on her father’s shelf. After Lulu uses Wolf’s wisdom to convince a cousin she can conduct electricity with her touch, her father sees an opportunity. Her father’s lessons transform Lulu, once deemed gangly and indelicate, into an electrifying new woman: The Magnetic Girl, captivating enthusiastic crowds by lifting grown men in parlor chairs, throwing them across the stage with her “electrical charge.”
As her notoriety grows, Lulu harbors a secret belief that she can use the power of Mesmerism to heal her disabled baby brother, Leo, with whom she shares a profound and supernatural mental connection. To help him, she delves into the mysterious book’s pages, determined to harness Wolf’s teachings and convince herself, and the world, that her gifts are authentic. But will they be enough to heal her family?
Based on true events, this award-winning novel is a unique portrait of a forgotten period in history, seen through the story of one young woman’s power over her family, her community, and ultimately, herself.
"Handler captures the ambivalence of female adolescence, where the newfound ability to captivate others exists in unsteady balance with the fear of loss of independence. A thoroughly fresh historical novel that both captures the essence of its time and echoes challenges that still exist today." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
"Like the powers of Lulu Hurst, Jessica Handler's literary power feels like a sleight of hand. It's impossible that a novel can be this beautiful, this haunting, and this resonant, but your eyes (and your heart) are not deceiving you. The Magnetic Girl is a gorgeous, brutal book: a strange alchemy of love, fear, fate, and hope." —Wiley Cash, New York Times Bestselling author of The Last Ballad
"Jessica Handler brings history to glorious life in a captivating tale anchored by masterful writing, especially the vivid, unique voice she gives to Lulu Hurst. With deft pacing that kept me turning pages long into the night, Handler lights up Lulu’s fascinating trajectory into a strange kind of stardom and beyond. The world sees Lulu, a natural mesmerist, as a person with mystical talents, but at its heart, this is the story of a young woman stepping boldly and at last into her true powers. The Magnetic Girl is something special. Don’t miss it." —Joshilyn Jackson, NYT bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters
“The Magnetic Girl is a compassionate, clear-eyed coming-of-age tale unlike anything I’ve read. The story belongs to Lulu Hurst, but Handler is the one doing the true mesmerizing. What a unique, accomplished debut!” —Therese Anne Fowler, New York Times Bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
“A heartwarming tale of the sacrifices we make for family, the delusions we fall for in the name of love, and the human need to keep on dreaming despite it all. Mesmerizing.” —Thomas Mullen, author of Darktown
"This is a story that gets at the core of what it’s like to be alive, honing in on modern day feminist anxieties through the lens of a distant time when electricity was glamorous instead of merely a technological afterthought. Handler provides a touching look at how human desire doesn’t always equal what is right, and the result is an astonishing tale that does not pander or falter, but crackles with magic." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Lulu’s is a story on the precipice: of scientific discovery, of cultural evolution, and of increased autonomy for women. As a daughter of this dawning new world, Lulu captivates her way toward dismaying realizations, deadly conundrums, and new freedoms. Beyond its sleight of hand, The Magnetic Girl is a vintage tale about learning to harness your singular powers." —Foreword Reviews
"In her classic memoir, Invisible Sisters, Jessica Handler plumbed her own life experience to explore universal truths about the inescapable pull of family and the equally transcendent power of individuality. In her lushly atmospheric first novel, Handler presents another exceptional woman—a virtually forgotten nineteenth century stage performer—through which to examine similar, eternal themes." —Frank Reiss, Owner, A Cappella Books