The Magician's Assistant
This is a love story, a story of loyalty and devotion, above all else. It is a story about illusion, illusions on the stage and illusions in life. Parsifal is a magician and Sabine is his assistant. From the moment she sets eyes on him, she is totally captivated by his beauty, but he has eyes for someone else. For 22 years she remained with him, as a faithful friend, and he with her, but Parsifal is homosexual and he is in a committed relationship with Phan. The three of them become like family.
Sabine had believed that she knew all there was to know about Parsifal, that they had no secrets from each other, until suddenly he dies, without warning, and the lawyer tells her that he has a family living in Alliance, Nebraska, a family she believed was dead, killed in a car crash. Now, in addition to the devastation of his loss, she is further horrified to learn that he has not told her the truth about his past, that not only have they performed illusions on the stage, they have lived it in their daily lives. Everything about him was his own creation, like the magic tricks he designed. Parsifal not only had another name, he also had a completely different life, unknown to all those closest to him.
When the lawyer informed Sabine about Parsifal’s past, he asked her if she wanted to get in touch with his family, but she defers to the lawyer, informing him that he may give them her information, if they wish it. After meeting them, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to them; they seem wholesome, down to earth, warm and loving, opposed to what she had originally thought about them, believing they had abandoned Parsifal. When she travels to Nebraska to get to know them better and to attend Parsifal’s sister’s upcoming wedding, she discovers that the family was flawed in many ways, unlike the picture perfect presentation they tried to sell her, when first they met. The family also had a hidden history, in more ways than one.
The interaction of the characters in the novel is far more complex than they first appear. Secrets and sexual orientation are major themes of the book. Through Sabine’s dreams, the nature of her relationship with Phan and Parsifal is revealed more clearly than it was in reality. Her own feelings and thoughts are examined more closely and become more visible and meaningful to her. As the magician presents illusions to the world, Sabine learns, so do people. What seems to be true at first blush, often is not; what we accept as fact, is often fiction.
By way of criticism, I found the ending disappointing.