Marisa and Jake are a perfect couple. And Kate, their new lodger, is the perfect roommate. Except—no one is truly perfect. Sure, Kate doesn't seem to care much about personal boundaries and can occasionally seem overly-familiar with Jake. But Marisa doesn't let it concern her, knowing that soon Kate will be gone, and it will just be her, Jake, and their future baby. Conceiving a baby is easier said than done, though, and Jake and Marisa's perfect relationship is put to the test through months of fertility treatments and false starts. To make matters worse, Kate's boundary-pushing turns into an all-out obsession—with Jake, with Marisa, and with their future child. Who is this woman? Why does she seem to know everything about Marisa and Jake?
Early in Magpie, a twist comes that made me gasp out loud. And it’s the kind of twist that makes you re-evaluate everything you’ve read before ... We watch Marisa, Jake and Kate make choices that strain credibility or at least consistency of character. But realism isn’t the point. It’s not about how things are but how they feel — and the deeper truths that can be mined within that feeling ... The near-constant fever pitch of the narrative matches how it feels to be suffering through pregnancy anxiety, fears of romantic betrayal, in-law strife, body horror. And the spiraling energy at the center of the novel captures the way fertility struggles can serve as a tripwire, upturning everything else in one’s life ... The dilemma with such novels, however, is that once you’ve raised the pitch that high, once all bets are off and narrators have shown their inevitable unreliability, how do you bring it home in a satisfying way? ... Day opts for a third act that is more grounded, even conciliatory. Loose ends are tied and problematic characters exiled. At first, it feels like a deflation: a grand opera culminating in a needle scratch. But we can’t forget what’s come before and Day lets it hang over the novel’s final moments like a creeping shadow.
Infertility, surrogacy, sexual assault, mental illness and a lot of desirable housing stock might seem too much for one book, but with her new novel, Magpie, Elizabeth Day pulls off a polished and creepy thriller which probes at the heart of what it means to be able to conceive a child – or not ... Magpie...is a clever novel. After settling into its initial disturbing narrative, the central surprise is a reversal akin to that employed by Lauren Groff in Fates and Furies ... On the surface light, bright and breezy, invoking the perfect lives Marisa and Kate both yearn for, it is capable of packing considerable punches ... The book is not without its moments of absurdity and caustic wit ... While Day does not specifically explore the full complexity of surrogacy as a feminist/political issue – it is not that type of book – her depiction of obsession and of the sometimes disastrous psychological effects arising from unfulfilled needs is highly plausible.
When the viewpoint abruptly shifts from Marisa’s to Kate’s, Magpie becomes an altogether less predictable, more volatile story, one that revolves around the all-consuming longing and sadness of infertility, and the desperate lengths to which it can drive people ... It’s hard to do justice to her treatment of these themes without spoilers. Cannily, the tense, ultimately cathartic psychological drama that ensues explains away any shakier-seeming aspects of the book’s first section ... Day’s cleverness lies in fashioning from these ingredients a pacy, stylish thriller in which suspense is accompanied by fist-pumping feminism and, perhaps toughest of all, hope.