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The Magician's Assistant

Cover of The Magician's Assistant

The Magician's Assistant

When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine--who was also his faithful assistant for twenty years--learns that the family he claimed to have lost in a tragic accident is very much alive and well. Sabine is left to unravel his secrets, and the adventure she embarks upon, from sunny Los Angeles to the bitter windswept plains of Nebraska, will work its own magic on her. Sabine's extraordinary tale captures the hearts of its readers just as Sabine is captured by her quest.

When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine--who was also his faithful assistant for twenty years--learns that the family he claimed to have lost in a tragic accident is very much alive and well. Sabine is left to unravel his secrets, and the adventure she embarks upon, from sunny Los Angeles to the bitter windswept plains of Nebraska, will work its own magic on her. Sabine's extraordinary tale captures the hearts of its readers just as Sabine is captured by her quest.

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About the Author-
  • Ann Patchett is the author of six novels and three books of nonfiction. She has won many prizes, including Britain's Orange Prize, the PEN/Faulkner Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the co-owner of Parnassus Books.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Karen Ziemba's voice enhances the magical qualities woven into this tale of love and loss. As with a magic trick, little in the story is as it appears. Magician's assistant Sabine adores the magician Parsifal. Even though he can't love her as she wants, he captivates her throughout his life--and beyond. After his death, Sabine must confront the disappearing act that dominated Parsifal's life. Ziemba voices objections by Sabine's Jewish mother with characteristic zing and gives a sharp, grating tone to dialogue spoken by Parsifal's family, hidden away in Nebraska. As mysterious experiences move Sabine from sorrow to acceptance and peace, Ziemba's narration carries the listener along. J.J.B. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 15, 1997
    As she proved in her two previous, critically praised novels, The Patron Saint of Liars and Taft, Patchett has the ability to leaven the gravity of sad situations with gentle irony and ultimate hope. Again in this novel, ordinary people drift into offbeat situations; kindness comes from unexpected sources; and the capacity to change, and to endure, can be awakened in a dormant heart. Sabine had been assistant to L.A. magician Parsifal for 22 years when they finally married. She knew he was homosexual; both had mourned the death of his gentle Vietnamese lover, Phan. What she didn't know until Parsifal's sudden death only a short time later was that Parsifal's real name was Guy Fetters, that had he lied when he claimed to have no living relatives and that he has a mother and two sisters in Alliance, Neb. When these four women meet each other, their combined love for Parsifal helps Sabine to accept the shocking events in Parsifal's life that motivated him to wipe out his past. In finding herself part of his family, she discovers her own desires, responsibilities and potential, and maybe her true sexual nature. The muted tone of this narrative matches Sabine's tentative moves in the void of her loss; yet Patchett's sweet and plangent voice often reminds one of Laurie Colwin in its evocation of love that transcends sexual boundaries and in the portrayal of reassuring patterns of domesticity. And Patchett's ability to evoke sense of place--from the quintessential L.A., basking in heat and eccentric characters to the bare Nebraska landscape populated by bland, wholesome Midwesterners (who, of course, are not what they seem) and buffeted by blizzards and temperatures so low that Sabine feels the hook of her bra "freezing into her skin, the finest knifepoint against her spine"--is near magical in itself. If the narrative moves at a deliberately slow pace, it's rich with the rewarding contrast between the precise mechanics of magic tricks and the real possibility of magic in daily life. $50,000 ad/promo; author tour; U.K. and translation rights: ICM

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 28, 2008
    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

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The Magician's Assistant
The Magician's Assistant
Ann Patchett
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