The Magician's Assistant

The Magician's Assistant

3.6 85
by Ann Patchett

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A reissue of Ann Patchett's third novel, about a magician who dies leaving his wife to discover a lifetime of secrets he kept from herSee more details below


A reissue of Ann Patchett's third novel, about a magician who dies leaving his wife to discover a lifetime of secrets he kept from her

Editorial Reviews

This beautifully realized tale suggests that even a woman skilled in the art of magic cannot fool herself.
Patchett's third novel is something of a magic trick itself -- a 90s love story wrought with the same grace and classic charm of a 19th-century novel...We read Patchett's novel with the same pleasure and awe of an audience watching a chained Houdini escape from an underwater chamber.
Publishers Weekly
After working as his assistant for more than 20 years, Sabine marries her beloved boss, Parcifal, knowing that he's gay and has just lost his lover. What she doesn't find out until after his death from AIDS is that Parcifal was actually Guy Fettera from Alliance, Neb., and had a family he never spoke about. Karen Ziemba creates an appropriately light tone for the narrator, despite some dark events that Sabine discovers when she visits Parcifal's sweet, dysfunctional family. She crafts clear, flat Midwest accents for the magician's mother and sisters and her pace and annunciation are excellent. Ziemba's men all sound alike, but they play minimal roles. She is an experienced and professional reader with just the right stuff for Patchett's 1997 novel, which probes the complex motives of Parcifal and his assistant. A Harcourt paperback (Reviews, July 14, 1997)
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Richard Eder
Wonderful. . .Put together with considerable canniness. --Los Angeles Times Book Review
USA Today
Ann Patchett is an elegant and lyrical writer.
New York Times Book Review
When a gay Los Angeles magician named Parsifal dies suddenly, he leaves behind his heartbroken assistant, Sabine, and a secret past that leads her to Nebraska and a family she never knew he had. Last year our reviewer, Suzanne Berne, called the author "an adroit, graceful writer."- The New York Times Book Review, October 18, 1998
Kirkus Reviews
Having produced wonders in two earlier novels (The Patron Saint of Liars; Taft), Patchett here conjures up a striking tale of pain and enchantment as an L.A. woman, who lost the love of her life after a few short months of marriage, finds unexpected consolation from her husband's family—a family she never knew he had. When Parsifal the Magician died suddenly of an aneurism, he left his assistant of 22 years, the statuesque Sabine, whom he'd recently married after his longtime gay partner Phan's death, heartbroken and numb. He also left a rude surprise: The family he always spoke of as dead is in fact alive and well in Alliance, Nebraska—and his mother and younger sister are soon on their way to see Sabine. Seemingly decent folk, the two women return home leaving her mystified as to why Parsifal (born Guy Fetters) would have denied their existence. And so, lonely and still paralyzed with grief, Sabine decides to visit them in the dead of a Nebraska winter, hoping for relief and some answers. She gets more than she bargained for when older sister Kitty, herself married to an abusive husband, reveals that Parsifal had accidentally killed his father in trying to keep him from beating their pregnant mother. After he did time in the reformatory, his family lost touch with him completely—until one night when they saw him and Sabine on the 'Johnny Carson' show. The nightly replay of a video of that show became a family ritual of hope, especially for Kitty's two boys, now teenagers as desperate to get away as their uncle had been. Sabine, quite a magician herself, begins a process of healing for them all, and with it comes realization of the hope that the familyhad long cherished. Masterful in evoking everything from the good life in L.A. to the bleaker one on the Great Plains, and even to dreams of the dead: a saga of redemption tenderly and terrifically told.

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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What People are saying about this

Robert Olen Butler
Reading this is like watching a master illusionist at work. Ann Patchett fills her reader with wonder, delight, and a new sense of possibility. And with this work, Patchett's career dazzles in much the same way: anything is possible for her.

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