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The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto


The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Our story opens as people are arriving for Frankie Presto’s funeral, a time to reflect on his life, a life narrated by Music: “I do know a great deal about him: the spells he wove with his guitar, the crowds he enthralled with that deep, breathy voice. The lives he changed with his six blue strings.”

Born in tiny Villareal, Spain, during a time of war, Francisco de Asis Pascual Presto’s entrance into the world, fiery and traumatic, started him on a journey that would be wondrous and terrifying, and end as spectacularly as it began. Francisco had an undeniable talent; his father could see that. Convincing a music teacher to take on a child aged five, however, was a problem. A local musician calling himself El Maestro, blind and suffering the vagaries of drink, begrudgingly agreed to tutor him. Maybe it was Francisco’s guardian angel that led them to the broken man, but El Maestro was the best thing that could have happened to them.

"Albom blesses us with this epic tale that blends fable, parable, mystery, romance and fairy tale. And what a blessing. It is, quite simply, the most wonderful thing I’ve read in a long time."

Unfortunately, during times of war, with governments in turmoil and towns in upheaval, uncertainties cause panic. Thus it was that El Maestro put Frankie on a ship for America, with few possessions but a guitar with special strings. You see, on this guitar a string would turn blue when Frankie changed a life. That may sound marvelous, but it can be a blessing or a burden, especially when you have no control over the magic.

Frankie’s passage to America was long and tortuous, but eventually he arrived, under the wing of a musician with an ear for the kid’s talent. Our story follows him as he blossoms, astounding anyone who listens, and becomes a worldwide sensation. That much talent was destined to be discovered. It is also true that fame tempts even the best among us, and Frankie proved to be no exception. But this is also a love story, one like no other. Beyond music, Frankie’s driving force was Aurora, a girl he met in a tree in Spain and fell hard for. Fame and Frankie’s demons came between them, more than once, but the bond they had was forged with a magic of its own.

But back to the funeral. As mourners file in, they stop to tell a favorite Presto vignette. Among these are people you’d know: Burt Bacharach, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Tony Bennett, Paul Stanley of KISS and Wynton Marsalis. See, Frankie and his guitar moved in very famous circles and influenced some of the most talented singers and players of his time. It just grew to be too much for Frankie. Life in the spotlight wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted Aurora, and he wanted peace. Perhaps he found it, for he dropped off the radar for years. The great Frankie Presto simply faded from view and from people’s memory. When he resurfaced, there was something important he needed to find, and the need burned strong. What he searched for was elusive, but Music guided him. And once he found his peace and when his time here was up, his final performance was haunting, some say tragic, but it hardly could have been more beautiful.

Mitch Albom possesses that rare ability to evoke from readers emotions of such depth that they will sit back, stunned. It has been a long time since TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, an unquestionably poignant tearjerker. THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO, though, is undeniably its equal, dare I say its bigger, better brother. My advice: Snuggle down into a chair surrounded with everything you’ll want for several hours of breathtaking and heartbreaking escape, and bring a box of tissues. Sink into this sad, tragic, magical and musical story. Albom blesses us with this epic tale that blends fable, parable, mystery, romance and fairy tale. And what a blessing. It is, quite simply, the most wonderful thing I’ve read in a long time.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on November 12, 2015

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
by Mitch Albom

  • Publication Date: October 25, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062294431
  • ISBN-13: 9780062294432