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The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
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Oct 06, 08

Read in October, 2008

The Magician's Assistant is the story of Sabine, newly-widowed from her husband of one year and friend for more than 20, Parsifal, the Magician. As the book opens, Parsifal, who has AIDS, dies suddenly of an aneurysm. Sabine is left widowed and alone in a large home in California to reflect on a life with a man who loved her, but whose true love was his Vietnamese lover, Phan, who died of AIDS 14 months prior. The reader is left to understand that Parsifal married Sabine to pass along his and Phan's accumulation of wealth to their close friend. While Sabine clearly was not Parsifal's one true love, it seems that he was hers and she was willing to accept whatever relationship he may have been able to give her. However, shortly after he dies, Sabine finds out that Parsifal is not quite the person she thought he was, that part of the estate is being left to a family she never knew he had, and the rest of the novel is Sabine's process of reconciling her life with Parsifal with this other family's life.

The Magician's Assistant is a wonderfully written story that has surprising twists and turns. It isn't strictly structured like a magic trick (reveal, prestige, etc.), but has some magical elements to it, especially the use of various dream sequences.
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