The Magnetic Girl

Written by Jessica Handler
Review by Arleigh Ordoyne

In 1880s rural Georgia, 15-year-old Lulu Hurst spent her days helping on the family farm, attending school, and taking care of her disabled younger brother, Leo. She’d always felt different from her peers—hearing outside thoughts and holding others in thrall with only a stare. She also suffered from overwhelming guilt for an accident she caused when Leo was a baby. One night during a lightning storm, a house guest’s late-night hysteria leads to a series of events that place Lulu on an unexpected path; she would soon become known as The Magnetic Girl and The Georgia Wonder.

Prompted by her father, Lulu began to harness her skills, supplementing the mystical elements with scientific laws—”parlor tricks,” as some would call them. Lulu preferred the label “mesmerism,” as described by the author of a book she’d filched from her father’s library months before: The Truth of Mesmeric Influence by Mrs. Wolf. Although Lulu’s brand of entertainment was accepted as a heavenly gift by the local religious circles, wilder stories began circulating in the big cities, spurred on by sensationalist newspapers’ headlines. In addition, other “magnetic” acts were popping up to capitalize on the craze. Lulu was quickly learning the downside of her newly found career and was concerned she wouldn’t be able to follow through on her promise of healing her brother—both a monetary concern and a question of her true abilities.

Peppered with sage snippets of the (fictional) works of Mrs. Wolf, this story follows an inexperienced young girl through poverty and uncertainty to fame and all its highs and lows. Handler’s prose is pitch perfect and her attention to detail, especially regarding Lulu’s emotional journey, is top notch. This unique tale, based on a real person, is simply a pleasure to read!