Jessica Handler is the author of Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Invisible Sisters: A Memoir, and The Magnetic Girl. Jessica Handler writes essays and nonfiction features that have appeared on NPR, in Tin House, Drunken Boat, Full Grown People, Brevity, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and More Magazine.
Kathryn Schwille’s fiction has appeared in New Letters, Memorious, Crazyhorse, West Branch, Sycamore Review and other literary journals. Her stories have twice received Special Mention in the Pushcart Prize anthology. She was an award-winning newspaper reporter before moving to North Carolina to become an editor at the Charlotte Observer. Her debut novel, What Luck, This Life, released to rave reviews last year.
Please join both of these authors for a lively discussion at Main Street Books.
About The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler:
In rural North Georgia two decades after the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Lulu Hurst reaches high into her father’s bookshelf and pulls out an obscure book, The Truth of Mesmeric Influence. Deemed gangly and undesirable, she wants more than a lifetime of caring for her disabled baby brother, Leo, with whom she shares a profound and supernatural mental connection.
Lulu begins to “captivate” her friends and family, controlling their thoughts and actions for brief moments at a time. After Lulu convinces a cousin she conducts electricity with her touch, her father sees a unique opportunity. He grooms his tall and indelicate daughter into an electrifying new woman: The Magnetic Girl. Lulu travels the Eastern seaboard, captivating enthusiastic crowds by lifting grown men in parlor chairs and throwing them across the stage with her “electrical charge.”
While adjusting to life on the vaudeville stage, Lulu harbors a secret belief that she can use her newfound gifts, as well as her growing notoriety, to heal her brother. As she delves into the mysterious book’s pages, she discovers keys to her father’s past and her own future--but how will she harness its secrets to heal her family?
Gorgeously envisioned, and based on a true story, 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. Squarely in the realm of Emma Donoghue's The Wonder and Leslie Parry’s Church of Marvels, The Magnetic Girl 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.
About What Luck This Life by Kathryn Schwille:
What Luck, This Life begins in the aftermath of the 2003 space shuttle disaster, as the townspeople watch their pastures swarm with searchers, and reporters bluster at their doors. A shop owner defends herself against a sexual predator who is pushed to new boldness after he is disinvited to his family reunion. A closeted father facing a divorce that will leave his gifted boy adrift retrieves an astronaut’s remains. An engineer who dreams of orbiting earth joins a search for debris and instead uncovers an old neighbor’s buried longing.
In a chorus of voices spanning places and years, What Luck, This Life explores the Columbia disaster’s surprising fallout for a town beset by the tensions of class, race, and missed opportunity. Evoking Sherwood Anderson’s classic Winesburg, Ohio and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, the novel’s unforgettable characters struggle with family upheaval and mortality’s grip and a luminous book emerges—filled with heartache, beauty and warmth.