The Holocaust is one of the darkest chapters in human history, and yet the stories that are born of it seem to be the most extraordinary examples of love and life. Emanuel Bergmann’s first novel, The Trick, which begins soon after the end of World War I, is no exception.
For Rabbi Laibl Goldenhirsch and his wife, Rifka, there is another reason to celebrate the return of peace to Prague—the birth of their son, Moshe. The new child briefly provides a respite from an otherwise unexciting postwar life. However, things take a turn as Rifka’s health deteriorates, leaving Moshe to deal with an abusive, depressed and drunk rabbi of a father.
Everything changes for Moshe when a neighbor takes him to a traveling circus as a cheerful distraction. So transformed is Moshe by what he sees that he wants nothing more than to become part of the troupe. With the determination of a child who is not yet unnerved by the possibility of failure, Moshe sets out in search of the circus, leaving his father, his city and his religion and changing his destiny from that of the many who stay behind.
Decades later in Los Angeles, a young boy named Max Cohn takes a similar leap of faith to keep his parents from divorcing. His answer comes in the form of an old vinyl record of love spells by the Great Zabbatini, a magician who can make anything possible.
And just like that, Bergmann expertly collides Moshe’s and Max’s universes. They may face two very different realities, but they share the tenacity to change their futures. The tragedy of the past weaves together with humor, love and a belief in the impossible in The Trick.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Behind the Book essay from Emanuel Bergmann on The Trick.
This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.