BEAUFORT – Jessica Handler learned creative writing from the late Pat Conroy when he served as a guest instructor at the Paideia School in Atlanta, just prior to the publication of his first novel, “The Great Santini.” Handler, author of two memoirs, published her debut novel, “The Magnetic Girl,” in April of this year.
The nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center, 905 Port Republic St. in Beaufort, will host Handler for a reading and discussion of her novel at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6.
The event is free and open to the public; the discussion will be followed by a book signing.
“The Magnetic Girl” has been named one of Wall Street Journal’s Ten Books You’ll Want to Read this Spring, is an Indie Next Pick, and is a Spring Okra Pick of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
Set in rural north Georgia two decades after the Civil War, the novel follows 13-year-old Lulu Hurst. Lulu reaches high into her father’s bookshelf and pulls out an obscure book, “The Truth of Mesmeric Influence.”
Deemed gangly and undesirable, Lulu 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.”
“The Magnetic Girl” is set in 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.
“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.
Handler is also the author of “Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief” and “Invisible Sisters: A Memoir,” which was named one of the “Twenty Five Books All Georgians Should Read” and Atlanta magazine’s “Best Memoir of 2009.”
The Pat Conroy Literary Center is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. For more information, visit patconroyliterarycenter.org.