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Publisher's Summary

When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine - who was also his faithful assistant for 20 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 will capture the hearts of its listeners just as Sabine is captured by her quest.

©1997 Ann Patchett; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"The kindliness of The Magician's Assistant is beguiling, and Patchett is an adroit, graceful writer. . . she is especially practiced at the razzle-dazzle of odd juxtapositions." (New York Times Book Review)
"A saga of redemption tenderly and terrifically told." (Kirkus Reviews)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    474
  • 4 Stars
    573
  • 3 Stars
    353
  • 2 Stars
    104
  • 1 Stars
    45

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    580
  • 4 Stars
    406
  • 3 Stars
    168
  • 2 Stars
    29
  • 1 Stars
    22

Story

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    367
  • 4 Stars
    418
  • 3 Stars
    273
  • 2 Stars
    106
  • 1 Stars
    43
Sort by:
  • Overall

Patchett Has It

This book will delight and entertain but ultimately enlighten the reader with its detailed introspection, empathy and surprising revelations. Patchett excels at what some critics call "odd pairings" but I regard this novel as a full demonstration of what this author has to say about learning from unexpected sources, and an implied caution against what I would call "contempt prior to investigation". In other words, you never know who your next teacher will be.

I have read most of Patchett's work, including her interview and her Sarah Lawrence commencement address, and she never fails to deliver in narrative skill, characterization and insight.

Can't wait for the next one!

63 of 67 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Stellar writing and narration-Pachett is a winner

Ann Pachett, an author who is new to me, has written another wonderful, introspective novel which I found so enjoyable I dedicated a couple of days to listening instead of multi-tasking, which is my usual way of listening to audio books. I've only heard 2 of her novels-this and "Bel Canto" and, IMO, both are 5 star listen...I don't give out a lot of 5 stars because I think it takes a really unique book and reader combo to rate that high of a score.

I've read some of the other reviews and, apparently, Pachett's writing does not apppeal to everyone. She is not an action oriented writer, instead she develops her characters fully and spends time weaving their inner thoughts, and dreams in the case of this story, with the plot. And, this plot is somewhat unusual in that one of the main protagonists is already dead and comes to the primary character in her dreams. It's a great interplay between living person and dream person. Additionally the personal relationships ae unusual. Still this story really pulled me in and kept me enthralled and I suspect I will be listening again to it soon.

The story line is not complex, for anyone who has lost a loved one to unexpected death the feelings of the main protagonist will be familiar. The numb and vacant and feeling unwilling to get out are typical of a woman dealing with death of her husband. Pachett delves deeply into these feelings and those of husbands family, which she had never met until after husbands death. Additionally, the marriage is truly unique and requires the listener to understand that not all relationships are the same.

I recommend the novel for those who don't need scary excitement in everything they read..this book is literature rather than a typical mass market book that gives thrills and chills. It does move slowly and is deeply involved in the thoughts and feelings of the family as they get to know each other.

I did feel the ending abrupt-but so was the ending in "Bel Canto" so that might be part of Pachetts writing style.

33 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Poetic

This is a wonderful, wonderful book. The story unfolds like a flower. She has such a way with words; it's wonderful to listen to. The narrator is terrific as well and really captures the mid-west dialect of Nebraska. I've only read one other book by this author but I now plan on reading her others.

24 of 26 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mary
  • Scotia, NY, United States
  • 08-26-11

What's with the cheesy music?

I liked the narrator. The story kind of limps along, never really developing fully into anything. And then it just ends. The characters aren't quite convincing to me, and I guess I didn't really feel invested in them enough to care when the story abruptly ends. I won't miss them, like I do characters in stories that have more richness, complexity and depth. What really annoys me about this audio book is the cheesy jazz riffs they put at the beginning and between chapters, often continuing it over the narration. It doesn't fit at all. What were they thinking?

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angela
  • Eloy, AZ, United States
  • 10-30-08

Listened to it Twice

Get this book you will not be disappointed..It is in the class of story that you do not want to end, and as you get close to the end you stretch it out to be able to savor every last detail. The narration could not have been better

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dennis
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 10-24-10

Patchett Pulls a Rabbit out of the Hat

Ann Patchett kills off her protagonist at the beginning of the story, but Parsifal
pervades the story from beginning to end. Although gay and living with his dying boyfriend, Parsifal marries his assistant, Sabine, who loves him so deeply that she accepts her status as a virginal wife. The plot follows her relationship with the family he never told her he had. The beauty of the story comes in the relationship that develops between a beautiful, wealthy, and hip L.A. woman and the corn-fed Nebraskans who her husband rejected as a teenager. Patchett tells a heat-warming story that moved me to want more.
The ending leaves one hanging, but not every author has to tie up the loose ends.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unsatisfying Ending

Interesting story with well developed characters. I enjoyed most of the story but felt the ending was very abrupt. It left me feeling like I had forgotten to download part of the book. Loved Bel Canto but had a similar feeling at the end of that book. Perhaps it is a feature of all of Ann Patchett's books. I will learn from this experience and may not download another.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Barbara
  • Pullman, WA, United States
  • 10-08-08

Love, grief, healing--Patchett has it all

I love Ann Patchett's work. She writes beautifully while making it seem effortless. I always worry about the interpretation of books in audio form, though. This is a wonderful story, artfully narrated.

After 20 years of working with Sabine as his magician's assistant, Parsifal (and before him, his lover, Phan) dies. Before he dies, Parsifal marries Sabine, leaving her with his estate and his secrets (and they aren't just magic tricks). Sabine discovers Parsifal's family--one she didn't know he had. Layer by layer, Sabine discovers why Parsifal left them and created a new life for himself. She acts as the agent of healing--for Parsifal's family and for herself.

The story is deep, touching and well-written. I finished it 2 weeks ago and am still thinking about it.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jbug
  • Atlanta, GA
  • 05-14-10

Rambled on and on

The book was very well written, but it just had no point. I listened to this while I peeled wallpaper off the wall. I would have given up on it had I been listening for pleasure.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting

Interesting story that easily kept me listening,but the ending was a huge disappointment. I was left cold.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful