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The Magician's Assistant

The Magician's Assistant

Paperback

By (author) Ann Patchett

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 196mm x 28mm | 280g
  • Publication date: 4 February 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1857028155
  • ISBN 13: 9781857028157
  • Sales rank: 35,890

Product description

Third - and breakthrough - novel by an acclaimed American writer with an enchanting, quirky voice. 'The Magician's Assistant' is at once a love story and a brilliant portrayal of reinvention about a magician who dies leaving his assistant/wife to discover he has lied about his past. A magician (with one memorable appearance on the Johnny Carson Show to his credit) takes the name Parsifal. He is gay. He has a Vietnamese lover, Phan. When Phan dies of AIDS, Parsifal marries the woman who has always adored him and who has lived with them both, his assistant Sabine. Then Parsifal himself dies in California, suddenly and shockingly, of an aneurysm. Parsifal always said that he had no living family and that he came from wealthy upscale Connecticut stock. The reality is very different, as Sabine learns from his lawyer. He came from a poor Nebraska family and they are very much alive. Indeed his mother and sister are on their way to California to meet Sabine, the daughter- and sister-in-law they know nothing about. It is bad that her husband has died. What Sabine must now cope with is coming to terms with his horrific past and the reason he divorced himself from his family and roots.

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Author information

Ann Patchett is originally from Los Angeles and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of two earlier novels, The Patron Saint of Liars and Taft. She lives in Nashville and is the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South.

Editorial reviews

Having produced wonders in two earlier novels (The Patron Saint of Liars, 1992; Taft, 1994), 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 family had 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. (Kirkus Reviews)