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Book reviews: Novels explore connections

"The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto"
Courtesy Photo

“The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto”

by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom fans, this one’s for you.



I have often wondered about child prodigies. How is it that young children, such as Mozart, can have the talents of masters four times their age? Well, this story satisfied my curiosity. I get it.

The fictional legend of Frankie Presto is narrated by MUSIC. According to MUSIC, when children are born and first open their eyes, they reach to grab the color that attracts their attention. Frankie Presto grabbed MUSIC.



Thus, the story of Frankie Presto, the greatest guitar player on Earth, begins … at his funeral. Famous musicians help tell Frankie’s story as they discuss their connection with him. MUSIC fills in the gaps of his life story.

As if by magic, six lives are significantly altered by Frankie’s six guitar strings, which have been with him since childhood. At first, Frankie does not see the connection, but as lives are altered, he comes to understand the power of each string.

In a way, this is the story of rock and roll. The fictional Frankie merges with actual musical characters, so if you are a music buff — or not — you will enjoy reading about those rock and roll stars who may have been your idols.

This is a love story, as well, and as MUSIC states, “All love stories are symphonies that have four movements.” Frankie’s love story was tender but complicated in its movements.

Metaphors comparing music to life abound in this novel, which make the story even more meaningful. MUSIC says that “everyone joins a band in his life … and in each band, you will play a distinctive part.” Sometimes your band breaks up, and sometimes, they reunite.

Frankie joined many “life bands” as well as musical bands. The story of his life is a symphony full of intrigue. It is part fantasy, part reality and part spiritual journey.

I grew to love the character of Frankie Presto. His story did not make me cry … I sobbed.

The Japanese Lover

by Isabel Allende

This love story takes place in the present day, with flashbacks to the World War II era. It centers around two women who initially appear quite different. But as their stories are told, their similarities become more apparent.

Alma is an elderly Jewish woman who, as a child, escaped to the U.S.A. prior to the German invasion of Poland. She is now a “client” at the Lark House nursing home. Irina is a young immigrant from Moldova and Alma’s caregiver at Lark House.

Irina develops a relationship with Alma’s grandson, Seth. Together, they set out on a quest to discover who has been sending Alma suspicious letters and gifts. They eventually discover Alma’s Japanese clandestine lover, Ichimei Fukuda.

The plot thickens when several more characters, each having intriguing life stories of their own, are introduced. The author cleverly brings all characters together as relevant influences in each other’s lives.

It was fascinating to read about the World War II Japanese internment camps in America, as well as reflections on aging. This is an excellent read, one you will not want to miss.

Virgie DeNucci is a bookseller at Off the Beaten Path.


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