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 Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.
Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes a 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.
(Story synopsis from 2015 Harper Collins edition; cover image from goodreads.com)
Just as there’s music to be found in every note played, there is music in writing. It is Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto that is able to bring these two things together. It’s as though I could hear Frankie’s music ringing through the pages as I read Albom’s story.
Mitch Albom always seems to have the wonderful ability of drawing the reader in to the heart of his stories. What made The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto even more interesting, in my opinion, was the use of narration by Music. By having the voice of a specific talent talk about the main character, Frankie, and take us through his life we are able to get a better, truer sense of who Frankie was a person. Even through Music loved Frankie, Music is also able to view Frankie exactly as he was: with all of his gifts and faults.
As Music takes us through the stories, they are all connected through one thought: “Everyone joins a band in this life.” Albom was rather genius in the way he is able to construct Frankie Presto’s remarkable history. Albom was able to weave Presto’s existence into the real history of the twentieth century music scene. Presto was there with Elvis; he toured with Duke Ellington; Frankie inspired Little Richard; he taught Ingrid Michaelson. In many different ways, Frankie Presto played in many different bands – he had a part in the creation of different types of music, music that would become the landscape for many generations to explore. It is with the help of his magic strings that Frankie is able to influence more than he realizes.
But as it was stated, “everyone joins a band in this life,”and Frankie’s most important band became the one he formed with the love of his life, Aurora. Frankie and Aurora’s love story could have been a story on it’s own, but it become so much more powerful in the context of Frankie’s gift of music. It is this relationship that means the most to him, and so becomes the inspiration for many of the things that he does and the decisions that he makes.
Mitch Albom once again created a masterpiece that speaks directly to the heart of the reader. With The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Albom shows how our talents hold power not only ourselves, but those that we come in contact with. Our talents can influence others whether we realize it or not, and it is these bonds which are formed that are the true magic.