When you believe in anything and everything then the world is yours and only a child would accept that premise. Moshe Goldenhirsch is the son of a rabbi in 1934 Prague. The undercurrent rumblings about the Jews is happening but Moshe is young and impressionable and thinks he is quite safe in Prague. When Moshe sees his first circus and is introduced to magic there isn’t anything in the world that will hold him back from joining the circus. He leaves his father and walks for days to catch up with the circus and joins up. He is pretty good at this thing called magic and is a quick learner, reinvents himself as the Great Zabatini and gains a following.
War comes, Moshe is a Jew in disguise, but when he is found out he is allowed to keep his trunk when he is taken away to the camps. He hopes this trunk full of tricks will save his life. We know, of course, he survives because there wouldn’t be a story if he didn’t.
Fast forward about seventy years. Young Max’s family is breaking up and he is desperate to keep his parents together. When his father packs up and moves out Max finds among his things an old LP recording of someone called The Great Zabatini and on this recording is a great love spell. Max is sure this spell will keep his parents together but there is a deep scratch in the record and that part of the recording is lost.
Quite resourceful for a ten year old, Max runs away from home hoping to find this Zabatini person to ask him to perform the spell for his parents. At this point the crotchety 88 year old Zabatini (Moshe) we are giggling over now is very different from the young man in World War II Europe. He is also desperate, having been kicked out of his retirement community. While he has no use for children he does need somewhere to stay and thus the friendship is formed between Zabatini, Max and Max’s family. Well, maybe not so much with Max’s parents.
Zabatini agrees to perform for Max’s birthday party and it’s Max’s plan for the love spell to be used at that time to save his parents’ marriage. But things happen and I’ve said too much already.
The blurb on this debut novel says this is a deeply moving, heartfelt story about a boy who believes in everything and a man who believes in nothing. I couldn’t agree more. This is a beautiful story.