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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

The Magician's Assistant


The Magician's Assistant Cover



Reading Group Guide

Q> Sabine never had the kind of passionate love with Parsifal that her mother has with her father and that Bertie has with Haas. Is it possible to be happy in a marriage without it? Was Sabine genuinely happy with Parsifal? Dot tells Sabine she has never experienced this kind of passion either. Do you think finding your true love is destiny or luck? Q> The settings of this novel play an important role in defining the characters. Los Angeles is a city where "there are no laws against pre-tending to be something you weren't." Considering that he was born in a conservative Midwestern town and that he killed his father there, was the illusion Parsifal created about his past understandable or was he selfish? If Parsifal had been born and raised in New York City or Chicago, would his illusion have been necessary? Q> Sabine's dreams help her journey through her grief. She believes that "sometimes it was possible for someone to come back." Do you think Phan and Parsifal are really coming back from the "beyond" in her dreams? Why is it Phan and not Parsifal whom she dreams about first? Why do you think Sabine was able to have such a good relationship with her husband's lover when he was alive? Q> On the plane to Nebraska, Sabine looks out of the window and reflects that "it looked like a world she would build herself, the order and neatness of miniature." What is she revealing about herself? Are the miniature buildings she creates saying something important about her personality or is that just her job? When her airplane is struck by violent turbulence, she thinks dying then wouldn't be so terrible. Do you think Sabine really wants to die? Q> The first magic trick that Sabine performs in Nebraska is when she pulls an egg out from behind Dots ear. What is significant about her doing this trick at this very moment? Gradually, Sabine performs more and more magic tricks. What is happening to her emotionally that the magic reveals? Is she discovering something about her own ability or is she simply carrying on for Parsifal? Q> Watching the Johnny Carson video is like a religion for Dot's family. Why is it so important to them? Sabine watches it with them twice. While watching it the first time what does she realize about their magic act and her role as the magician's assistant? How is her reaction different the second time she watches it, and why? Q> Sabine finally dreams about Parsifal. But at first she thinks that he is Kitty. Was this just a mistake because they look so much alike or is it more meaningful? Do you think that Sabine and Kitty are really gay? Do you think they would have fallen in love had each of them not loved Parsifal? Kitty says that she dreams of Parsifal and Phan too. Are we supposed to think that Parsifal has somehow brought them together? Q> A big part of a magician's trick is the skillful manipulation of the audience. Is Sabine manipulating the Fetters? When she performs the card trick that enrages Howard, do you think it was an honest mistake? Do you think Kitty leaves him simply because he hurts Bertie? Do you think that if Howard had been a better husband and father Kitty and Sabine would have fallen in love? Q> At Bertie's wedding, Sabine does Parsifal's card trick from her dream. Is there a secret to this trick or is it really "magic"? She tells her assistant at the wedding that she doesn't know how she pulled it off. Is Sabine telling the truth? In her dream Parsifal's card trick causes great excitement, but at the wedding the guests are more impressed by how she shuffles the cards. Why doesn't this disappoint Sabine? Q> The Magician's Assistant begins, "Parsifal is dead. That is the end of the story." Is Parsifal s death really the end of the story? In her last dream, Sabine waves goodbye to him. Do you think she will dream about Parsifal again? Do you think Kitty will finally leave Al and go to Los Angeles with Sabine?

Copyright (c) 1998. Published in the U.S. by Harcourt, Inc.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

mardy, December 16, 2013 (view all comments by mardy)
I really didn't like this book very well. First we have the story of a woman who was sexually attracted to a man for many years against all odds who now is developing an attraction to his sister. The first part was hard enough to swallow, but the second came across to me as ridiculous. I also didn't find the characters to be particularly interesting or appealing people. Sabine was sympathetic for the grief she was experiencing but her idyllic life in other ways (i.e. her parents) didn't seem very realistic.
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celiacla, March 7, 2012 (view all comments by celiacla)
I picked this book up on a whim, having no idea what it was about, and found it to be a surprisingly good read. The story is about coping with loss, and finding your way through to pick up the pieces.
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(3 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
Sarah MacQueen, January 10, 2012 (view all comments by Sarah MacQueen)
I picked this book up on a whim this summer because the cover was intriguing, and the blurb in the front cover sounded interesting. I absolutely fell in love with the writing style, and the introspective, almost dreamy quality to the story. The book had exactly the ending I was hoping for, and I enjoyed it from start to finish. This is definitely a book I would read again and enjoy just as much the second time.
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(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Patchett, Ann
Harvest Books
San Diego :
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Fantasy - General
Gay men
Los angeles
General Fiction
General Fiction
Los angeles (calif.)
Literature-A to Z
Edition Number:
1st Harvest ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.31 in 0.76 lb

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The Magician's Assistant Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Harvest/HBJ Book - English 9780156006217 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Ann Patchett's writing delves into a new world with each successive novel. This time she takes us on a captivatingly American journey of love, loss, and redemption. Patchett uses a delightfully modern story to explore timeless questions that will resonate with many readers: what is the true nature of love, and how well do we trust ourselves to find it? Patchett's prose is careful and measured, yet also lush and elegant; she fully assumes the role of her heroine while encouraging us to take her hand on this surprising journey. The Magician's Assistant is fun, endearing, kind, and moving; it expertly explores new territory in the complex search for love.

"Staff Pick" by ,

After the death of her husband, a magician named Parsifal, Sabine discovers that he was hiding much more than she thought. She alone knows that Parsifal was gay, but now she finds he had a "long lost" family. The idea of finding a connection to her husband is so tantalizing, Sabine can't resist meeting them. Love, loss, and new beginnings are explored.

"Review" by , "Masterful in evoking everything from the good life in L.A. to the bleaker one on the Great Plains...: a saga of redemption tenderly and terrifically told."
"Review" by , "This engaging, supple plot is played out against a backdrop of dreams, flashbacks, and long, elliptical conversations....With her quiet playfulness, Sabine's touch is as light and sure as that of the author who created her."
"Review" by , "[T]he kindliness of The Magician's Assistant is beguiling, and Patchett is an adroit, graceful writer who knows enough tricks to keep her story entertaining....The real appeal...lies in the small, accumulating ways in which Sabine and the Fetters family assist one another out of isolation and sorrow. By the end, they have all been somewhat transformed — yes, by the magic of love."
"Review" by , "The [characters] have a wonderfulness that collectively can be unnerving. But mostly they ARE wonderful, as well as individual, smart and battling hard. There is something of allegory in Patchett's novel. There are times when its insistent current toward redemption risks flooding the life along the way, and there is a suggestion of the author's hand hovering at the sluice gate. Rarely does it do more than hover, though: rarely does the flood level do more than lap at the ingenious life and liveliness that Patchett has devised."
"Review" by , "Magicians — and their assistants — may be masters of misdirection and slight of hand, but novelist Ann Patchett is the real thing. Patchett does have a trick or two up her sleeve... — her controlled, evocative prose for one; the uncanny way she makes the most surprising twists seem absolutely inevitable; not to mention the wisdom and tenderness with which she portrays the illusions that keep lovers and families together and those that rend them apart."
"Review" by , "Patchett's third and finest novel....Patchett's lush and suspenseful story is also a portrait of America..."
"Synopsis" by ,
A reissue of Ann Patchett's third novel, about a magician who dies leaving his wife to discover a lifetime of secrets he kept from her
"Synopsis" by , When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine — who was also his faithful assistant for twenty 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 readers just as Sabine is captured by her quest.
"Synopsis" by , 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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