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3 New Books About Magnetic Women

These unconventional, storytelling women in this week’s book club will attract and hold your attention. Are they literally magnetic, or does the world just revolve around them? Feel the pull of these three unique voices as they update historical narratives with their own unique spin; let them mesmerize you.

1. The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler ($27): “Back then I believed I was magic. My power appeared as a bodily urge, like needing to use the privy or sucking in my stomach to button up a dress that no longer fit. I loved my secret talent so much that I gave it a name: captivation. I sensed more than most people, too, without using words. I was the only person in my family who understood my brother when he spoke, although Momma tried her best. Leo was my center. In his eyes, my most secret faults were forgiven. And I wanted to change his life. Not long before the incident with the fox, my body had turned into something I couldn’t control. My feet tangled when I walked. My bones ached in my sleep, thickening inside my flesh. Sometimes they scalded like steam, other times they cramped with ice.”

Teenager Lulu Hurst is literally a magnetic woman. Or is she? After finding a book called The Truth of Mesmeric Influence on her father’s bookshelf, Lulu starts dreaming bigger than her rural Georgia household. Maybe she can escape the traditional role of an 1880s woman. Maybe she can help her younger brother, whose disability she feels great guilt over, and to whose mind she feels a deep connection. Lulu’s father creates a traveling attraction starring his daughter, who is able to briefly influence the thoughts and actions of others, lift people larger than her from their chairs, and send men flying across the room with her personal magnetism.

Handler’s novel is based on Hurst’s real-life story, along with an autobiography she later published where she shed light on the secrets behind her “abilities.” The growing desire for female independence is linked to the rise of electricity, bringing the book in line with recent hits like Naomi Alderman’s The Power. How much of Lulu’s abilities are carefully constructed showmanship, and how much is real? Attractive and polarizing, she’s a character to watch.


2. Naamah by Sarah Blake ($26): Most of us have heard the biblical story of Noah and his family building the enormous ark that would save them and let humanity start over after the Great Flood. Few have considered what Noah’s wife felt about it all. Blake’s feminist novel brings Naamah to richly detailed, beautiful life. Headstrong, inquisitive, sensual, and anything but subservient, this Naamah is an equal to her loving husband. Grateful but deeply angry, faithful but suspicious, she mourns leaving behind the life she knew, including her lover, the widow Bethel. She also knows it’s up to her and her family to move forward.

Optic Nerve

Naamah deals with the uncertainty and tedium of living on the boat for months with no sign of land, diving under the waves for fun, where she finds a mystical, symbolic world and falls for a tempting and terrifying angel. On deck, she holds the family together, caring for a host of needy and confused animals she is no longer able to see. Her nights are full of philosophical dreams and visions; as her body transforms, she meets a famous foremother and is accompanied by a faithful companion bird that begs her to remember these wisps of memory. As she issues defiant challenges to a seemingly indifferent god, and ponders her own vulnerability in Blake’s dazzling, inventive language, it’s hard not to feel that humanity was reborn from the right mother.

“Drunk and alone now on the deck, Naamah says aloud, ‘I was wrong.’ She yells, ‘It wasn’t enough.’ And then, speaking more normally again, ‘I want You to judge me. I don’t understand how I could have been judged differently from all those other people. All those children.’ She looks out at the sky. She can see stars as they near the horizon of water, can see their dimmer counterparts on the surface. She knows both will disappear as the sun rises – it doesn’t matter that one is real and one isn’t. ‘I’m starting to accept that You will not judge me. Or that You have already passed judgment, and it doesn’t have much to do with me. I get it! You determined me not wicked, even if I feel otherwise. You are telling me, ‘It is not so!’ Okay! I’ll try to behave accordingly. Which I guess means I will continue to be myself!'”

3. Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead ($25): The unnamed Argentinian woman who narrates Gainza’s debut novel loves, lives, and breathes art. Buenos Aires is her home, and, afraid to fly, she becomes intimately connected to the city where she spends her life. Readers will become equally intimately connected to her mind, from where we view her world as a kind of gallery walk, with memories becoming exhibitions, placed together by theme or whim rather than by chronology. These crystalline moments of her life are set off against stories from art history, artists, and art becoming a mirror for self.

Ilana Lucas
Ilana is an English professor, theatre consultant and playwright based in Toronto, Canada. When she’s not at the theatre or insisting that literary criticism can be fun, she’s singing a cappella or Mozart, occasionally harmonizing with the symphony, or playing “Under Pressure” with her rock handbell group, Pavlov’s Dogs.

Alright, folks. We've officially made it to fall. And if you haven't already started switching out your decor (as long as it's ready by Friendsgiving, right?) you still have time to do so. Draw inspiration from this round-up of new home products that includes harvest-inspired candles, cozy linens and textiles, and a v. practical piece of furniture. One scroll through these, and you'll have all the motivation you need to transition the seasons. Scroll on to start shopping.

Prism x LOREM Collection ($96+): Calling all Cali babes. The popular Long Beach boutique, Prism, announced a boho-fabulous collab with home decor line, LOREM, that we can't get enough of. Shop everything from plant hangers (eight options, to be exact) to artwork, all inspired by the very colorful vibes of the brands. If you were looking for a cheery way to tide you through winter, this. is. it!

Floyd Mattress (Price TBD): Fans of the cult-favorite Detroit-based brand will love their latest launch debuting on October 29. The highly-coveted Floyd Mattress will have the same made-to-last design and superior comfort as their other furnishings, tailored perfectly to fit the line's in-demand bed frame. Additional details for the mattress include a breathable foam material, highly-mobile packaging, and a low-profile design to secure your best night's sleep yet. Check back on the last week of the month to get one for yourself.

Dims 'Composed Vanity' ($595): Small space? No problem! Direct-to-consumer brand, Dims, is giving you a quick and stylish solution to your storage needs with their newest item that doubles as both a desk and vanity. The functional piece is made with non-toxic, chemical-free materials and can be assembled in seven minutes or less. Throw in four sleek shades to choose from, and this may just be your best purchase of 2019 yet!

Saatchi Art x The Citizenry Holiday Collection ($225+): Get ready to deck your walls this holiday season. Saatchi Art partnered with The Citizenry in a one-of-a-kind collection that features a curation of art across styles. Explore everything from modern to abstract creations in a selection so stunning, it's bound to spark a conversation at your next gathering.

NEST Spiced Orange & Clove Collection ($16+): If you haven't experienced the addicting aromas of the beloved NEST fragrance brand, this is the perfect time to get on board! The label recently released their latest scent — spiced orange & clove — just in time for all your gatherings. Inhale festive notes of orange pomander, spiced brandy, cinnamon, and gingered honey across their suite of candles and diffusers to bring all the good vibes to your home.

Bloomingdales x RiLEY Home ($19+): RiLEY Home gets millennials. So they teamed up with Bloomingdales to make shopping their selection more attainable than ever. Now, you can get in on long-lasting, luxurious staples like flannel sheets, bedding, printed throws, premium pet beds, and more, by shopping online and in-stores at the department store. (Trust us: These dream goods are ones you're going to be *glad* you stocked-up on.)

Italic Serene Towels ($12+): The luxury brand that prides itself on using the *same* factories namesake brands (like Calvin Klein and Lacoste) use, but without the price tag behind them, brings you a new product for fall. Treat yourself to Italic's ultra-soft towel set spun from fluffy, 100% Australian cotton, in a convenient set of six. Consider it the perfect indulgence after a long soak in the tub on a cozy FNI (Friday night in)!

Hyascent x Neiman Marcus ($169): 'Tis the season for a delightfully scented home. Warm your abode with scents like bourbon joy, cheeky rose and more in a unique diffuser that doubles more as decor than a fragrance-inducer. Fresh off the (online) shelves of Neiman Marcus, explore nine scents that last up to six months in a specialized hourglass holder. (Shhh! Your friends will never know the secret of why your place smells so darn good!)