Friday Reads: The Magician’s Assistant


“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

This blog written by Donna Burgess, Reference Librarian and co-leader of “Books on the Half-shell,”  the library’s monthly fiction book club.


Ann Patchett’s third novel, The Magician’s Assistant,  is a selection in the Falmouth Fiction book club, series, “Magic and Magicians.”

Set in Los Angeles, California and Alliance, Nebraska it is both a love story and an awakening. The magician’s assistant of the title is named Sabine. An assistant to the magician Parsifal for twenty years, Sabine was in love with him, even though he was gay, and as is announced in the opening sentences, “Parsifal is dead. That is the end of the story.”

Throughout their relationship Parsifal maintained that his family had all died in a car accident in Connecticut. So it came as a shock when Sabine learned that he had a family in Nebraska! His mother, Dot and her daughter, Bertie arrived in LA   through contact with Parsifal’s lawyer. They decided to meet Sabine.

Having spent too much time in bed grieving the loss of Parsifal, Sabine decides to give Dot and Bertie a tour of the LA, (“a city where there are no laws against pretending to be something you weren’t!”) She finally decides to accept Dot’s invitation to visit Alliance and learn about Parsifal’s past.  We learn that Parsifal’s given name is Guy, that there was a tragic event in his past that triggered his move away from Nebraska and his shutting out his past.

The contrast between the palm tree lined streets of L.A. and the windswept snow –clogged streets of Alliance heighten the contrast between the personalities of Dot’s family and Sabine.

Although there is little magic performed throughout the book, Sabine does manage to astonish Dot and her family by pulling an egg from her ear! Perhaps the magic is the relationships that develop between Sabine and Dot’s family.

The book sparked a lot of discussion in both the evening and morning book groups. One member stated at the beginning of the meeting she didn’t really care for the book. After listening to the discussion she realized how much there was to the story.

And that my readers, is what book clubs are all about.





One comment on “Friday Reads: The Magician’s Assistant

  1. Margaret says:

    Our discussion of The Magician’s Assistant was interesting and fun. Thanks, Donna! I look forward to reading next month’s fiction book club selection.

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