this Ann Patchett novel. Bel Canto was amazing and State of Wonder was astounding. (I must admit I don't remember Run even after reading my review of it, so that novel must not have made a huge impression on me.) The Magician's Assistant is just delicious. I nearly decided not to read it because magicians are so foreign to me. I have never been mesmerized by their kind of magic. But I'm such a fan of Ann Patchett, and so I began.
Sabine is newly widowed, or more importantly, newly alone and without her best friend of 22 years. The magician Parsifal was her husband by name only. He married Sabine, his assistant, after his partner Phan died solely to provide her with his tremendous inheritance. Parsifal's sudden death throws Sabine into shock and depression. She's alone in a mansion with the memory of a lifetime with Parsifal, and all she wants to do is sleep. But the funeral is barely over when her lawyer reveals to her another shock: Parsifal the magician was indeed a master of deception.
Sabine discovers that Parsifal, her elegant and polished magician who claimed to have been orphaned as a child, was a farm boy named Guy from Nebraska with a living family. Sabine is certain that his family must be cretins for him to have completely erased their existence. When she meets his mother and youngest sister, however, she realizes that they adored Parsifal/Guy. She leaves the comforts of California for Nebraska in the winter, to bask in the adoration of Parsifal's family—including another sister and two nephews— and find out why he left them all behind.
Ann Patchett is a beautiful writer. Her sentences are constructed like the most delicious desserts, to be savored and lingered upon. And what a storyteller! Every character, even the manager of Parsifal's store, is clearly depicted and richly drawn. I can still see even that minor character and smell the rugs at the store. Phan and Parsifal reveal specific information to Sabine often in dreams, adding an Isabel Allende-like magical realism quality to the novel. I don't usually love this kind of thing, probably mostly because no one ever comes to me and reveals vital information in dreams, but it completely works in this novel.