No Ordinary Magic is the vivid portrait of a man who reinvented himself through the art of magic, as told through the lens of the young woman who loved him. Chock-full of characters and magical feats, experience the unexpected travels with the Great Cellini.
The title of this memoir is perhaps understated. No Ordinary Magic could easily have been called Extraordinary Magic. Eileen McFalls’ once-in-a-lifetime journey across the U.S. and Europe with her paramour, a street magician known as the Great Cellini, is a tale that underscores the adage that truth is often stranger than fiction.
The cast of characters, first introduced in New Orleans, is a motley crew of artists, eccentrics, magicians, street performers, and downright oddballs. A 25-year-old McFalls, something of an unsullied, wide-eyed Tarheel, meets up with Jim (aka the Great Cellini) as he’s performing magic tricks for locals and tourists, all of whom are impressed enough to throw tens and twenties into his tip hat. After hanging out with Jim for a bit, McFalls is spellbound by his charm and his bedeviling artistry. In her words: “He made me laugh. I wanted an adventure, he oozed possibilities. Most of all I wanted someone like him to want someone like me.”
The resulting romance ignites quickly and leads to a peripatetic journey of surprises that captures the color of urban and rural scenes, crazy people, comical interludes, and the wonderment of magic that leaves everyone amazed—even the reader.
McFalls gradually becomes Cellini’s performing sidekick, assisting with tricks and luring passersby with her good looks and twirling dances. Their travels take them back for visits to New Orleans, where we get to better know the quirky but loveable free spirits who prove that bonds once formed are long kept.
Scenes in England, Switzerland, Paris, and Amsterdam play out in unexpected adventures with both disquieting and comical hijinks. They’re worth reading slowly and deliberately. Again, fact sometimes eclipses fiction.
McFalls’ detailed and active recounting of people, events, and conversations gives the reader a sense of being present in the moment as her narrative flows. No Ordinary Magic is a great ride and no ordinary read.