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‘Ruth Figgest demonstrates how to make a story’—Patrick Gale

Darkly comic and sharply observed, Magnetism is the story of a mother-daughter relationship as it unfolds episodically over 50 years.

Set in the American mid- and south-west, the novel opens in 1976 when the young teenage protagonist, Erica, is in a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt. Fast forward to the present and Erica, now in her fifties, takes a phone call at work telling her that her mother Caroline has died. From this point the story moves backwards in time with each chapter shedding light — and dramatic irony — on those it follows. 

Mother and daughter are the best of friends and the worst of enemies. Dense with love and taut with frustration, their conversations pulse with unflinching intensity and an emotional punch.

Magnetism captures the exacting rhythm of their relationship over more than 50 years. Their story unfolds against a backdrop of sweeping social change, with each new scene revealing why they made the choices they did and how they became the women they are.

Sharply observed and crackling with energy and wit, Magnetism exposes the stigma and experience of mental health problems, sexual politics, infertility, homosexuality and single parenthood.

This is an extraordinary debut—brutally honest, darkly comic and unexpectedly uplifting.

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