The Trick

Translator Emanuel Bergmann's first novel, The Trick, shifts settings between his birthplace in Germany and home in Los Angeles in a cross-generational tale of love, heartbreak and magic.

When Max Cohn, a 10-year-old boy in Los Angeles, listens to his father's decades-old record of the Great Zabbatini performing a spell of eternal love, he knows the magician can use his powers to bring Max's divorcing parents, Deborah and Harry, back together. Since a scratch in the record has destroyed the magic words, Max goes in search of the real deal, finding the crass, eccentric 80-year-old man who used to be Zabbatini in a local nursing home. In flashbacks to World War II Europe, readers learn the history of Zabbatini, born Moshe Goldenhirsch, son of a rabbi in Prague. After running away to join the circus as a young man and taking up with a beguiling magician's assistant, Moshe finds fame as a mentalist partly by faking Persian, and therefore Aryan, ancestry. Eventually discovered as a Jew and sent to a concentration camp, Moshe needs all his cleverness and magic to survive.

By turns sentimental and quirky, The Trick has much to love, most notably a charming intergenerational friendship between a boy who clings to his magical thinking and a disillusioned old grouch. While the secret revealed in the end might feel like a particularly strong coincidence, Bergmann packs in enough minor magic and miracles along the way to leave the reader willing to fall under his spell in an entrancing diversion. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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