A 10-year-old boy’s quest to save his parents’ marriage puts him on the trail of a Holocaust survivor known as “The Great Zabbatini.”
The first chapters of Bergmann’s debut introduce two boys. One is Moshe Goldenhirsch, born to a formerly barren rabbi and his wife in Prague in the early days of the 20th century. The timing of the miraculous birth suggests there may have been some assistance from the locksmith upstairs. The second boy makes his entrance a full century later in Los Angeles. His name is Max Cohn, and infidelity is part of his story too—his father is being kicked out of the house due to his affair with a yoga instructor. “Your parents’ divorce, Max realized, is your true bar mitzvah. It is a rite of passage separating boys from men.” In alternating chapters we follow Moshe as he runs away with the circus, becomes a mentalist, gets a girlfriend, and finds great success in Berlin at the worst possible time, as the Nazis consolidate their power. Meanwhile, Max finds an LP among his father’s things called “ZABBATINI: HIS GREATEST TRICKS.” Among these is “The spell of eternaaaaal loooooove!” Max feels sure this spell will stop the divorce in its tracks—only the record is scratched, and that part won’t play. Well then, he'll just have to track down Zabbatini himself. Max climbs out the window, jumps on the bus, and heads to the Hollywood Magic Shop, where, amazingly enough, he gets some help locating the now quite elderly man. More lucky breaks, coincidences, credibility-stretchers, and other helpful plot devices culminate in—a magic trick at Auschwitz! Gott sei dank! Diversions en route include some admirably un–PC jokes—for example, in the Jewish community of West Los Angeles, “marrying the child of a Holocaust survivor was like marrying a Kennedy.”
Your basic sweet, funny, magical Holocaust story.