The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
by Mitch Albom
Release Date: November 10th 2015
Softcover Edition; 512 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours
5 / 5 Stars
Frankie, born in a
burning church, abandoned as an infant, and raised by a music teacher in
a small Spanish town, until war rips his life apart. At nine years old,
he is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is
an old guitar and six precious strings. His amazing journey weaves him
through the musical landscape of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, with his
stunning playing and singing talent affecting numerous stars (Duke
Ellington, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley) until, as if predestined, he
becomes a pop star himself.
He makes records. He is adored. But
Frankie Presto’s gift is also his burden, as he realizes the power of
the strings his teacher gave him, and how, through his music, he can
actually affect people’s lives. At the height of his popularity,
tortured by his biggest mistake, he vanishes. His legend grows. Only
decades later, having finally healed his heart, does Frankie
reappearjust before his spectacular death—to change one last life. With
the Spirit of Music as our guide, we glimpse into the lives that were
changed by one man whose strings could touch the music—and the magic—in
each of us.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is one of those books that drew me in and made me reflect on a lot of things in my own life as I was going through Frankie's life with him. It was poignant and uplifting, with characters whom I adored even if I didn't always understand them, combining fictional characters with actual people and events into a book that was literally magical.
The narrator of the story was Music, something that captured my attention from the start and gave me a different perspective on talent and its use. Interspersed with the Musical interludes are Frankie's story, jumping from past to present, along with tales related by a number of musicians who share memorable moments about Frankie as they were rushing towards his funeral. This way of presenting Frankie's life story actually added to the element of suspense and many twists and turns were sneaked into the story whenever I thought I had a grasp on how things were progressing. There were many times when I was wondering how in the world Frankie ever ended up where he did, and how, but the key was to be patient as everything was revealed piece by agonizing piece, often in ways I did not expect. I loved the slow unveiling of Frankie's story and I really enjoyed how the book was presented, almost to the point where I couldn't read it if I had only a few minutes as I knew I couldn't put it down again.
At first I had no idea how the title related to this story but as it progressed I began to understand and I loved that little touch to the story; it was all about coming full circle and facing your fears and demons. The strings would actually glow blue as a major event happened in Frankie's life and then one by one they would snap. The guitar played such an important role in Frankie's life, going with him everywhere, having been given to him by his beloved music teacher when he was young. It almost became as much a symbol of his life as his music and there were times when I was afraid something was going to happen to it; I would have been as devastated as Frankie if this were the case. This shows the power of the author's writing that you can empathize with a character quite strongly even if you don't necessarily hear their thoughts or feel their emotions. Frankie's life was quite a difficult one and I agonized with him over every part of it; being abandoned by the person we thought was his mother, being taken in by a lonely old man who in his heart becomes his father, losing his beloved teacher and father, being betrayed, and falling in love. There were also times when I would have liked to give him a good kick in the pants over some of his choices as you agonized over that too. Frankie was not the greatest person at dealing with issues as he was used to just leaving when things got tough; not choices I liked, but I understood them in relation to his life. Have I mentioned how much I loved this book yet?
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto was a fantastic book and I enjoyed the way it was presented very much. Music tends to be universally adored as it is and shares a common ground with a lot of people so I am sure this will resonate with many as Frankie goes through his musical career and crosses paths with many famous people. I thought the novel was wrapped up quite neatly, with all questions answered, and in such a way that left you feeling really good. It almost (almost) made me want to take up piano again to see what I could do.