The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

I know I said in the WWW post last Wednesday that I would read Vinegar Girl or A Man Called Ove next, but I am a liar. I read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom next (although I am reading A Man Called Ove now, so at least I got there). This book has been sitting on my shelf for some time. With favorite authors, I either gobble them all up at once or avoid reading 1 or 2 of their books for an extended period of time because I’m afraid of running out of material from that author. Albom is of the second variety. Have a Little Faith is still patiently waiting on the shelf.

I find it interesting that Albom’s books are getting longer. When you think about it, they’re all essentially about the fact that life is short, we should enjoy it, and we should tell people how we feel. I feel like the lengthening of the books shows an important lesson that he’s learning. Or, I’m projecting my own lesson that I’ve learned in my relationship with the author. The lesson, whoever it belongs to, is that we absolutely should enjoy the little moments, but they don’t have to be little. Every time someone says to enjoy the little things, it’s always with the idea that it should be a quick thing, which kind of ruins the point. “Enjoy your morning coffee” usually translates to “enjoy your coffee for five minutes” before starting your day. Who says? Morning coffee can be an hour. Watch it pour, smell it, sip it. It’s your thing to enjoy. Spend a day or a half a day reading a long book in one sitting. Life is too short not to enjoy the little things for long moments.

Enough philosophy, let’s talk about the book now. This book is about a guitarist named Frankie Presto (surprise). The story starts at his funeral and then goes back to the beginning of his life to tell the whole story. One of the most original aspects of the book is that it’s narrated by Music. Music tells the story of his child and the magic strings that Frankie possesses. Music isn’t the only one though; the story moves back to the funeral frequently, and people from Frankie’s life share a story about him. It’s a really interesting format.

My notes about this book are funny because Albom proved me wrong and fooled me a couple of times. Right when you think none of the answers will come because all avenues of information are gone, another appears. None of the answers come quickly or easily, so you just have to keep reading! It’s a fast read. I’m usually a fast reader, but even I was confused about how fast I was going. The prose just slips on by, smooth as butter.

What really makes this book for me is the primary narrator. Music has an incredible voice (pun intended). It’s distinct and consistent throughout the novel. There’s a touch of humor and of sadness, but mostly there is pride in his/her children. There are also outbursts though that give the narrator a touch of realism and ground him/her. One passage that I really liked because I could almost taste anger and see a sneer of disgust was when Music makes a side note to say he/she cannot be found in drugs or alcohol. He/she sounds angry, disappointed, and sad when listing artists who died young because of drug or alcohol abuse. Then that section ends with these great lines:

I am Music. I am here inside you. Why would I hide behind a powder or vapor?

Do you think me so petty?

I tried to make my text look as close to the book as possible because the punctuation, the new line, and the indent make this section pop for me. Then there is a break in the text before moving to the next part of the story.

I’ve been taking care to avoid identifying Music as male or female because it didn’t really say. The most Music describes him/herself as is a color (you’ll have to read it to really get that). In my notes, however, I used male pronouns, and the narrative voice was distinctly male in my head. I’m not sure if that’s because the author’s male, and I often default to the author’s gender. I do know that I’m pretty sure the voice was mostly Peter Capaldi’s. Maybe it’s the Doctor Who watching that I want to get back to. I would be interested to know what other people heard as the narrative voice while they read. If you’ve read it or will read it, leave a comment about the gender/voice you heard.

Besides the excellent narrator, this story is just plain good. Frankie has a tragic life that he strives to make better. The story is painfully sad sometimes, and you just want to hug the characters. Mostly though, this book is an amazing homage to musicians who put their heart and soul into music for us. I’ve read plenty of books praising music, but this one really focuses on the talent and experience that great musicians use to create great songs.

This book didn’t leave me in a pool of my own tears like his other books so often do, but it is just as good and may even be my favorite of his after The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I recommend all of his books if you like stories that focus on people and relationships. I recommend this one if you like that and/or music.



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