This novel begins in October 1883 in Cedartown, Georgia, and ends in May 1884 in Knoxville, Tennessee. It is based on the life of a real person, Lulu Hurst (1869-1950), who wrote an autobiography and about whom other obscure books have been written. She performed as a teenager for two years until retiring in 1885 as “The Georgia Wonder” who could demonstrate on stage seemingly miraculous feats of physical strength. This book was selected as one of Wall Street Journal’s Ten Books You’ll Want to Read This Spring and a Spring Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. "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. “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. This is the third book published by Jessica Handler, an English professor at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta who earned a B.S. at Emerson College and an MFA at Queens University in Charlotte.
Spartanburg, South Carolina: Hub City Press, 2019. 280 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.