Darkly comic and sharply observed, Magnetism is a stunning debut novel that unpacks and unfolds a mother-daughter relationship 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.
This is a mother-daughter relationship that seesaws between cooperation and opposition; they are best friends and worst enemies; their conversations have an unflinching intensity and an emotional punch.
Hindsight changes everything as the years drop away with each chapter and their founding layers and their most intimate relationships are unveiled. Against a backdrop of significant social changes — the Vietnam war protests, Oklahoma bombing, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 — mother and daughter gradually reveal themselves and, in so doing, expose the stigma and experience of mental health problems, sexual politics, infertility, homosexuality and single parenthood.
Crackling with energy and wit, the novel captures the exacting rhythm and beat of their bond, the significant shifts in their relationship, why they made the choices they did and became the people they are. Magnetism is ripe with humour, and tender as well as ruthless. Brutally honest, horribly funny and unexpectedly uplifting, it is an extraordinary debut.