About the Book:
It isn’t until the charismatic Parsifal, Sabine’s husband and the magician she assisted for years, dies suddenly that Sabine discovers his secret: the family he claimed perished in a car accident long ago is actually alive and well in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska. When Kitty and Dot Fetters, sister and mother, respectively, of Guy Fetters — that’s Parsifal to Sabine — decide to visit Los Angeles to meet Sabine and see where Guy lived, Sabine finds herself drawn into Parsifal’s past, seeking comfort in these women who were so close to her husband and partner so long ago.
Does that (somewhat clumsy) summary make this one sound odd? Don’t get too hung up on it. Patchett manages to make it all work, somehow!
My issue with the two other Patchett novels I’ve read has been the ending. I enjoyed both books until the final pages, where the directions in which Patchett took both stories effectively severed my emotional connection to them — a rather disappointing conclusion to any book! I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Magician’s Assistant worked somewhat opposite for me, drawing me further and further inside itself as the story moved forward and (thankfully!) never letting go.
At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to connect much with Sabine, a glamorous magician’s assistant living the a cushy life in Los Angeles with her husband and his gay lover (I’ll let you read the book yourself to learn about that situation). Yet, as Sabine’s story unfolded, I found myself warming to her as she struggled to come to terms with her grief and redefine her suddenly solitary life. Through the Fetters family, Sabine encounters a world so different from her own that it both forces her to face reality and helps her on her journey. Patchett ended The Magician’s Assistant in precisely the right place, in my opinion, which left me feeling both satisfied and relieved this particular ending hadn’t gone the way of the others of Patchett’s I’d read!
The audiobook was read by Karen Ziemba. She’s a new narrator to me, but I liked the way her cool, polished voice matched the way I imagined Sabine. I very much enjoyed the audio production and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
Has The Magician’s Assistant restored my willingness to try more by Ann Patchett? I’d say it has. I do have Run and The Patron Saint of Liars on my shelf already, so I’m sure I’ll try at least one of those. For readers who have had similarly disappointing experiences with Ann Patchett’s novels, The Magician’s Assistant is different enough that I’d recommend it as a nice change of pace. Thanks to JoAnn for suggesting it to me!