Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the earth—in this magical novel about the power of talent to change our lives.
In Mitch Albom's epic new novel, the voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, Frankie Presto, a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, Frankie is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six magical strings.
But Frankie's talent is touched by the gods, and it weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. Along the way, Frankie influences many artists: he translates for Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.
Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people's futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell.
With its Forrest Gump–like journey through the music world, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is a classic in the making. A lifelong musician himself, Mitch Albom delivers an unforgettable story. "Everyone joins a band in this life," he observes, be it through music, family, friends, or lovers. And those connections change the world.
I did not want to like The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. It's an odd title. (I like cozy mysteries, so I know odd titles!) Mitch Ablom is a famous author. His books have been on national best-seller lists. So the expectations go through the roof and I didn't think his book could live up to that.
Now, I am most happy to report that Frankie Presto started growing on me from the first note. And there is no choice between first-person and third-person narration, because Music is itself the narrator.
And talk about humble beginnings. Frankie was born in the upstairs area of a church that was being looted and burned by soldiers in a war. His mother sings him a song to keep him quiet so the soldiers will not find them too quickly. The song stays will him his entire life. Literally...it keeps showing up.
His mother dies and a nun changes clothes with the mother and then takes Frankie away from the church and raises him as her own. Until she can't deal with the stress of single motherhood (it's NOT for sissies, that's for sure) and she throws him away. Much of his childhood is spent with the man that rescued him as a toddler, believing this man to be his father.
His 'father' runs afoul of the Spanish government and is taken away to prison. He pays the boy's blind guitar teacher to spirit the boy to the United States. Dirty dealing on a 3rd person's part leaves the boy alone on the docks in England, playing for money to eat. There he runs into a down-on-his-inspiration jazz musician and agrees to accompany him to America.
I absolutely ADORED the part where he subs for Elvis, but that's all I'm going to say about that.
The method of interspersing the chapters about Frankie's story with interviews of famous musicians at Frankie's funeral brings an engaging angle to the overall story. I'm also glad that the full story gives us information on what Frankie was doing in all those "lost years". It was also gratifying to know that this famous musical character, after his years of getting caught up in the pitfalls of fame, was able to get a final, satisfying resolution to his life.
So, what's the deal with the 'magic' in the strings? Does it refer solely to Frankie's musical talent? No. The guitar that has been with him the majority of his life from the age of 9 had strings that had been provided to his mother, if I remember correctly, by a gypsy family to whom she had shown charity before Frankie was born.
Music can have charms to tame not only the savage breast, but one of these charmed strings turns blue each time Frankie comes closer to his real purpose. It then breaks. Despite the decreasing number of strings, Frankie continues to make incredible music with the guitar given him by his beloved first music teacher. (I must admit, to my chagrin, that I thought the cover was strange at first. And then, I understood.)
Maybe that's the real jewel of this story, that no matter our circumstances, we can still fulfill our destinies. To quote Peter Pan, "All you need is faith and trust...and a little bit of pixie dust."
So here I am, having read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. It was an immensely satisfying read. My heart ached at the story of his birth. I was outraged at the events surrounding his leaving Spain at a young age. I did kind of want to slap him upside the head when he started heading down the wrong path, like I would do for a brother or a good friend. And I did a little mental 'fist pump' at his final performance.
If you have a beating heart, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto will resonate in unison with the beat.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Mitch Albom is a bestselling novelist, a screen-writer, a playwright, and an award-winning journalist. He is the author of six consecutive number-one New York Times bestsellers and has sold more than thirty-four million copies of his books in forty-two languages worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie, which spent four years atop the New York Times list, is the bestselling memoir of all time.
Albom has founded seven charities, including the first-ever full-time medical clinic for homeless children in America. He also operates an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He lives with his wife, Janine, in suburban Detroit.
Find out more about Mitch at his website, connect with him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter.
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(Disclosure: I received a print copy of this book from the author and publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)