The Trick (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Moshe Goldenhirsch is a man full of secrets, a man who has told many lies: some lies sinister and some secrets kept out of necessity. As a child in Prague in 1934, the son of a rabbi had to learn to discern between the two.

Max Cohn is a boy whose parents have kept secrets; namely, the secret that Max uncovers is their divorce - caused by his father's infidelity. Refusing to recognize the break-up of his family, Max searches for anything that will keep his parents together. What he uncovers in his search is the recording of the Great Zabbatini - produced in the 1970s, it reveals the secrets of life. More specifically, the secret to eternal love.

In a novel about two intersecting lives, The Trick by Emanuel Bergmann weaves tales both purposeful and picaresque. Following Moshe as he molds his mannerisms after the Half-Moon Man - a great illusionist - traveling from town to town under the big-top as an apprenticed magician – Zabbatini - Bergmann manages to develop a character the reader can find both mesmerizing and menacing. It's only after years of ardent survival that Zabbatini meets Max, the boy who seeks his knowledge of eternal love.

Max is unshaken by Zabbatini's brusque view of life, and through Max's persistence, Zabbatini finds some closure in his long, troubled past. It's not until the final pages that the greatest "trick" of Zabbatini's life is revealed, and the story that takes you there is as compelling as the reasons Moshe had to keep his secrets and tell his lies.

— Shelly Walston


A deeply moving, humorous story of a boy who believes in everything and an old man who believes in nothing.

In 1934, a rabbi's son in Prague joins a traveling circus, becomes a magician, and rises to fame under the stage name the Great Zabbatini just as Europe descends into World War II. When Zabbatini is discovered to be a Jew, his battered trunk full of magic tricks becomes his only hope of surviving the concentration camp where he is sent.

Seven decades later in Los Angeles, ten-year-old Max finds a scratched-up LP that captured Zabbatini performing his greatest tricks. But the track in which Zabbatini performs his love spell--the spell Max believes will keep his disintegrating family together--is damaged beyond repair. Desperate for a solution, Max seeks out the now elderly, cynical magician and begs him to perform his magic on his parents. As the two develop an unlikely friendship, Moshe discovers that Max and his family have a surprising connection to the dark, dark days the Great Zabbatini experienced during the war.

Recalling the melancholy humor of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the heartbreaking pathos of the film Life is Beautiful--this outstanding first novel is at once an irreverent yet deeply moving story about a young boy who believes in magic and a disillusioned old man who believes in nothing, as well as a gripping and heartfelt tale about the circle of life.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781501155826
ISBN-10: 1501155822
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: September 19th, 2017
Pages: 384
Language: English