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The Magician's Assistant [Kindle Edition]

Ann Patchett
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (575 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sabine-- twenty years a magician's assistant to her handsome, charming husband-- is suddenly a widow. In the wake of his death, she finds he has left a final trick; a false identity and a family allegedly lost in a tragic accident but now revealed as very much alive and well. Named as heirs in his will, they enter Sabine's life and set her on an adventure of unraveling his secrets, from sunny Los Angeles to the windswept plains of Nebraska, that will work its own sort of magic on her.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Magician's Assistant sustains author Ann Patchett's proven penchant for crafting colorful characters and marrying the ordinary with the fantastic. When Parsifal, Sabine's husband of more than 20 years and the magician of the title, suddenly dies, she begins to discover how she's glimpsed him only through smoke and mirrors. He has managed to keep hidden the existence of a family in Nebraska--his mother, two sisters, and two nephews. Sabine approaches them hungrily, as if they are a bridge to her beloved husband and a key to the mysteries he left behind.

From 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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1228 KB
  • Print Length: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (September 17, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003WUYQ64
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,947 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
126 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best novel of loss ever..... May 29, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am amazed at the 'average 4-star rating' listed for this book. It is flat out the best book of loss ever. I send this book to anyone who has lost a loved one. It is on my Desert Island book list, for sure; and I am a two-book-a-week fiction junkie. Bittersweet, haunting, hopeful, uplifting, funny.....the full package.
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221 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parsifal is dead. That's the beginning of the story. January 16, 2000
Format:Hardcover
Ann Patchett, who lives in rural seclusion with her pet raccoons (at least according to the profile in Modern Tennessean), is so good I wish she wrote the morning paper. That way I could wake up and read her sentences all day long.
If you've glanced at the editorials above, you know the novel's plot. Two of the most fascinating characters are already dead when we begin reading; they occupy the heroine's dreams, refusing to rest like peaceful corpses should. Among her other talents, Patchett is masterful with adolescents-- a notoriously tough breed to write about. And she's excellent with violence, too. Not the habitual, ritual violence of genre fiction, but the quick, mean violence of unhappy men.
I don't want to tell you too much. Read the book. If you don't like it, e-mail me and complain about what an idiot I am.
I don't think I'll be hearing from you.
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105 of 115 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shamefully bad editing - riddled with typos July 10, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I don't know if the print version is similarly flawed but the kindle version of this book is so full of typos that I believe I deserve a refund. My favorite typo thus far: "the twenty two feces of famous people staring vacantly in her direction"

The problem is pervasive enough to interfere with the meaning of the text. This is a decent and interesting book (though not Patchett's best) but the kindle version is substandard and should be pulled and corrected. It's just ridiculous.
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84 of 92 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Magic is sometimes like love." July 21, 1998
Format:Hardcover
Subtle, beautiful, poignant prose--if you're like me, you were starting to wonder if it could still be found in a book written in the 90s. Here it is. Never mind the plot, which has none of the knife-blade intensity we're so used to these days. And never mind the characters, which are unique and real, though not particularly complex or surprising. Read this book for the sentences, the paragraphs, the feelings and descriptions and quiet inner musings of the Magician's Assistant herself, the ultimate almost-X-gen expert in not-quite-tragic infatuation, Sabine Parsifal. This book is as much poem as novel. The voices echo eerily, as if you'd heard every line in the "real" world but you can't remember where. On the other hand, if subtlety and unending depression bore you, or positive portrayals of homosexual relationships freak you out, better skip this title and head for the bestseller list instead.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing October 22, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
After loving Ann Patchett's wonderful novel, 'Bel Canto,' so much, I decided to read her other novels, in the order in which they'd been written. While not on the same level of writing as 'Bel Canto,' I liked her first novel, 'The Patron Saint of Liars' very much. Her second novel, 'Taft,' was a real letdown, but I figured this was just a glitch and that surely her third novel would be even better than her first, or at least as good. So I was really disappointed to find that though a readable book, it was what I'd call ordinary writing, with characters that didn't get under my skin (the way they did in her first and fourth novels), and with very little complexity and little to think or ponder about.
It's true that after I finished the book, I tried every which way to look at it symbolically, to see how the magic tricks, the sleight of hand and the distraction of attention could be applied to what happens, especially with the ending. And yes, OK, I had some theories, such as maybe Sabine had been so distracted by her 22 years with the glamorous, gay Parsifal that she had failed to realize that she was really gay herself, and thus her attraction to Kitty at the end.
But I found that I just didn't really care, partly because I didn't care that much about the main characters. I found the trio of Sabine, Parsifal and Phan all too good, too unflawed, too beautiful, and Sabine's worship of Parsifal for over 2 decades a little hard to fathom, as is her relationship with him for that long. I had a similar relationship with a gay man for several years, but it certainly wasn't without terrible heartache nor without disagreements (which Parsifal and Sabine seem to never have had, not a one!). Well, everything in L.A. is good and charming and wonderful, including Sabine's parents and L.A. itself.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deceivingly simple story works its magic April 28, 2002
Format:Paperback
The first thing you notice when reading The Magician's Assistant is that Ann Patchett really cares for her characters. She quietly nurtures them, even the minor ones, and offers the reader a gentle yet revealing view of their complex lives.
At the opening of the novel, Parsifal the magician, has suddenly died and Sabine, his assistant of twenty years and recently his wife, is trying to cope with her loss. Their relationship had always been a unique one - Sabine loved him and dedicated her life to him despite his inability to love her in the same way: he was gay. What complicates her grief is the discovery that Parsifal has family living in Nebraska - a mother and two sisters - family he had always told her died many years earlier in an accident. In fact, everything she knows about the history of his life, turns out to be a fabricated story. As Sabine struggles to comprehend the reasons for Parisfal's deceptions, she embarks on an emotional journey, traveling to Nebraska to try and connect with the Parsifal she never knew through the family she never knew he had.
Patchett effectively uses two elements throughout the book that bind this story together: the dream world and the world of magic. Descriptions of Sabine's dreams, where she reunites with Parsifal as well as his gay lover Phan, are used to relate Sabine's emotional awakenings as she forms relationships with Parsifal's family and learns of his early life; the magic that Parsifal and Sabine performed throughout their union serves as the tool that brings Parsifal's family an understanding of the son/brother they lost years ago.
Lovingly written and gracefully rendered, The Magician's Assistant is a deceivingly simple book and a very rewarding experience.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I've never read an Ann Patchet book I didn't like. This older one is well worth the read.
Published 2 days ago by Mocha Man
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read..four stars
Gave this book four stars. Loved the way it reads, the tone and pace couldn't be better. I was drawn into the story in a, well, magical way. Read more
Published 2 days ago by balloon girl
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Enjoyed the character development. Would love to know what happens next. Hard to ask for more then that from any fictional story.
Published 6 days ago by Jane Jensen
4.0 out of 5 stars Love to LA
All of Ann Pachett's books are a bit quirky, but usually quite good. This was no exception. The Los Angeles setting & references were interesting. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Bookiemember
5.0 out of 5 stars masterfully written
Ann Patchett's nuanced descriptions, full characters and wildly imaginative storytelling drew me to Nebraska, Paris, Mekong delta and Hollywood. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Lee B.
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine novel
Sabine is the magician’s assistant who journeys through her grief of the death of Parcifal (the magician). Read more
Published 10 days ago by Joyce
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
While it was an interesting read, this book felt disjointed and awkward at times.
Published 10 days ago by alyse stone
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting storyline but....
I thought the story was intriguing. A beautiful woman is so in love with a gay man, Parsifal, a magician, that she spends over twenty years with him and his lover , suspending her... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Lucy M.
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Marvelous
Ann Patchett is a wonderful story teller. Her characters are believable and her story is always about the marvelous mystery of simply life itself.
Published 25 days ago by Mike Castronis
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
A big disappointment, because I really like Bel Canto. But I kept reading, initially because I figured it would have to improve and then just because it was so fascinating to read... Read more
Published 27 days ago by jsginma
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More About the Author

Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles in 1963 and raised in Nashville. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 1990, she won a residential fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. It was named a New York Times Notable Book for 1992. In 1993, she received a Bunting Fellowship from the Mary Ingrahm Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. Patchett's second novel, Taft, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best work of fiction in 1994. Her third novel, The Magician's Assistant, was short-listed for England's Orange Prize and earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship.Her next novel, Bel Canto, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in 2002, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named the Book Sense Book of the Year. It sold more than a million copies in the United States and has been translated into thirty languages. In 2004, Patchett published Truth & Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly. Truth & Beauty was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association. She was also the editor of Best American Short Stories 2006.Patchett has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times magazine, Harper's, The Atlantic,The Washington Post, Gourmet, and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender.

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