Book Review :: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

The Magic Strings of Frankie PrestoThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This review was first published in The Hans India newspaper.

Forged in the strings of destruction, moulded by the jazz of sufferings and rising from the symphony of loneliness—this is the story of Frankie Presto narrated by Music, who takes us on a journey of profound talents and emotional abundance.

In ‘The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto’, Mitch Albom takes us on a journey that plucks at our heartstrings touching deep corners of our emotional pockets. You will laugh with Frankie, cry for him and live his life through the voice of Music as it narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple.

In the war-hit Spain during the 1940s, Frankie’s mother dies after giving birth. After being thrown in a river to die, by the woman who had promised to raise him, Frankie, the baby, is rescued by a dog and raised by a fisherman, Baffa. However, war is brewing and Baffa is captured and Frankie is then raised by his blind music teacher, El Mastro. When he is nine years old, he is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is a guitar and six precious strings, which are magical.

Although, abandoned throughout his life, music never leaves him. Of course, Frankie becomes a star. But, his gift is also his burden; through his music, Frankie can affect people’s lives—with one string of his old guitar turning blue whenever a life is altered.

As a boy, Francisco meets Aurora—it is love at its purest, the kind of love that is “always”. Their story travels across the world with both characters doing the dance of love and destruction for each other. Aurora suffers through Frankie’s fame and failures. Frankie suffers to through Aurora’s expectations. Yet, their bond and “band” endures.

At the height of his popularity, Frankie Presto vanishes only to appear decades—just before his spectacular death—to change one last life.

The book begins with Frankie’s funeral and is told through flashbacks and interviews with the mourners. Albom has weaved Frankie’s journey throughout the musical landscape of the 20th century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll and pop, with talents like Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, the Beatles, Bob Marley and even KISS being affecting by his talent. For musical lovers, the rich history and grammar of music is a bonus in the book.

For most of us who are the Bollywood-bred generation growing amidst pop culture, the story may not hold the wow factor. We’ve seen things like this before, we’ve read it before. However, what makes the book un-put-down-able is its unique non linear narration that is infused with a consistent rhythm. And, of course the voice of music, which sounds like the deep decibel of Peter O’Toole in ‘Ratatouille’, will keep the readers captivated and entertained throughout.

Frankie and Aurora are a compelling couple—he is kind (to everyone) and she is brings laughter to the world. However, a significant other suffering for their partner’s genius, that is as clichéd as it gets. Having said that, their connection is unique in that it requires few words—they are soul mates, who find each other no matter the years and distance that separate them.

This is a soul enriching novel, infused with the message that “everyone joins a band in this life” and those connections change us all. Every page screams to the reader to live their talent—just do it. Sure, it seems cheesy and clichéd at times and Music gets preachy a lot. But, the simplicity of the language is truly inspiring and nobody can challenge the feelings aroused after living Frankie’s sentimental journey.

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