The Magik­er

  • Review
By – May 22, 2014

Love con­quers all — or does it? In Charles Dennis’s live­ly, roman­tic psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, Clare loves Har­ris, her hus­band, or maybe Edwin; Har­ris loves maybe Clare or maybe Leah, who may or may not be real; Leah loves Shi­mon, but they’re caught in a time trap. Then there’s Bar­bara, who’s about to mar­ry Gor­don, but she seems to be the alter ego of Leah … 

The cov­er illus­tra­tion, a Cha­ga­lesque por­trait of a bride and groom, sets the mood for this mod­ern-day tale filled with humor, col­or­ful char­ac­ters, whim­sy, fan­ta­sy, and, yes, love. Har­ris Strid­er, a psy­chol­o­gist, an ordi­nary, harm­less — but per­haps a bit pomp­ous — nobody, is asked to con­firm the san­i­ty of shal­low socialite Bar­bara, who has been hav­ing mem­o­ry laps­es. Dur­ing these episodes, she is observed behav­ing stran­g­ly. As her wed­ding date looms, is she a jit­tery bride-to-be, a mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ty, pos­sessed by the spir­it of Leah Littman, a bride who died one hun­dred years ago — or is she just plain crazy? 

As Dr. Strid­er attempts to unrav­el her psy­che, he is drawn into a mias­ma of fan­tasy, Kab­bal­ah, migrat­ing souls, his­to­ry, and decep­tion. No one is who they seem to be, or only who they seem. Not even him­self. He is warned, sev­er­al times, by friends, col­leagues, strangers, and even fam­i­ly, to drop the mat­ter. But he becomes obsessed with Leah, or rather, his fan­ta­sy of her, endan­ger­ing his mar­riage, his med­ical prac­tice, respect, friend­ship, and even his sanity. 

There is a strange, charis­mat­ic fig­ure, the Magik­er Rebbe, who oper­at­ed in the Pale of Set­tle­ment one hun­dred years ago. Six bar­ren women mys­te­ri­ous­ly con­ceived after he treat­ed’ them(!). Oth­er won­ders are also cred­it­ed to him. An old jour­nal comes into Dr. Strider’s hands that updates the Magiker’s his­to­ry, and illu­mi­nates the present. 

Music resounds through­out the sto­ry: the chant­i­ng prayers, the vir­tu­al or imag­i­nary orches­tra that Edwin con­ducts, the opera that the journal’s trans­la­tor wants to write about the Magiker. 

Har­ris Strid­er is called upon to right an ancient wrong: he suc­ceeds, almost in spite of him­self. But he’s only the catalyst.

Relat­ed content:

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

Discussion Questions