You have never heard of Frankie Presto? Words such as legendary, gifted, and famous have all been attached to his name. Set aside some time to read The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto (2015) by Mitch Albom. I do not think you will be disappointed.
Music narrates this novel. Yes, Music. The story opens at Frankie’s funeral. Music is there to claim the part of Frankie’s soul that was his talent so that other newborn souls may share in it.
Thus, begins the tale of how and when Francisco de Asis Pascual Presto entered the world. It was not an ordinary birth. The place was Villarreal, Spain in 1936, a time of civil war in that country. Carmencita, Frankie’s mother, had sought shelter in a church. A young nun hid her in a secret chamber. That is when Frankie decided to make his entrance into the world.
This musical story is told in six parts, just like the six strings of Frankie’s guitar. That guitar with the six magical strings is the only thing Frankie has in his possession as he heads to the Untied States hidden in the bottom of a boat. He was only nine years old at the time.
So many interesting characters are woven through this novel that I am just going to list a few that stood out to me. I have already mentioned Frankie’s mother, the young nun, and of course Music. Add to that list Buffa Rubio, El Maestro, Aurora York, and Django Reinhardt.
Those are just some of the fictional characters. You will surely recognize many with various connections to the music industry: Marcus Belgrave, Darlene Love, Burt Bacharach, Roger McQuinn, Paul Stanley, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Ingrid Michaelson, and John Pizzarelli. Actually, the list could be even longer. Ok, a couple more…Elvis, Hank Williams, Ritchie Valens, the Everly Brothers.
Frankie’s musical talents were recognized around the world. As the reader you will follow this journey around the world that begins and ends in Spain with real places or historical events such as Detroit, Woodstock, New Orleans, Los Angles, and London.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto moves back and forth between times and places. A bit confusing at first. But hang in there, it is well worth the read. I liked it so much I purchased my own copy just so I could reread it any time I want. Give it a try, you will be pleasantly surprised. I sure was.
Music plays a role, mainly behind the scenes, in Bridge to Haven (2014) by Francine Rivers. This novel is set in the 1950s but opens in October 1936. The reader meets Rev. Ezekiel Freeman as he is taking his usual morning walk around the small town of Haven, located in northern California. He decided to walk towards Riverfront Park and the bridge. It was at this spot he thought he heard a sound and went to investigate.
What Zeke found that morning was a newborn baby girl. He wrapped her next to his body and raced off towards the hospital. Doctors were able to save the little one. Zeke and his wife Marianne along with their five-year-old son Josh returned later in the day to check on the child. Marianne, even with all her medical issues, thought they should become the baby’s foster parents. Zeke did not think it was a great idea but could not say no to Marianne. They named the baby Abra and this is her story.
By the time Abra was four years old Marianne was managing the busy life of a mother, but physically she was growing weaker. Friends and neighbors offered to help. Mitzi turned out to be a real favorite of Abra’s. Abra loved spending time at Mitzi’s for many reasons. The best being for Abra is that Mitzi played honky-tonk music. If Abra learned to play the likes of Bach and Beethoven, Mitzi promised to teach her to play the fun stuff. It was not long before life took a sad turn for Abra. Marianne died.
After Marianne’s passing Zeke began to feel it was not fair to Abra to be raised without someone to care for her day to day as he was often out of the house with his church duties. He approached Peter and Priscilla Matthews, the couple who had wanted to adopt Abra when she was found. He felt they were the perfect parents to raise Abra. She and their daughter Penny were the same and very best friends.
Things went somewhat smoothly until the two girls hit their teenage years. Abra’s feelings of abandonment and being unloved grew. It led her to search for love in all the wrong places along with making poor choices.
During the turmoil of those teen years Mitzi’s friendship, along with her guiding hand through music helped keep Abra busy and involved. In the meantime, Josh and Abra have gotten to know each other and grown closer.
Josh is now a senior in high school. He and Abra have become close friends over the years. In fact, he is surprised at how much they care for each other. Two events happened about the same time that marked Abra’s future. Josh is drafted into the military and sent to Korea as a medic. Then, rich bad boy Dylan arrives in town and seems to have eyes set on Abra. Penny and others try to warn her. Abra’s reply? “I’ve been hurting my whole life. I can’t remember a time I haven’t felt like I wasn’t enough.” Josh, home one leave before being sent overseas, begged her to “Guard your heart. It affects everything you do in this life.”
Abra’s life takes a major turn. She believes the promises of others who do not have her best interests in mind, only their own. Finding someone to trust seems impossible for Abra. To those on the outside who only know her as the beautiful Lena Scoot, Abra is living the perfect life. In actuality, it could not be further from the truth.
Well, I just took you up through the first four chapters. Abra is on her own even though she is surrounded by all kinds of people. Reading this book may give you an idea of just how easy it is for a young person to get caught up in a life they never knew existed. It was the 1950s when Abra began experiencing life away from her small town.
Today things are even more unsettled than then. I could not help but think about the headlines of today’s newspapers and tv programs about the #MeToo Movement and human trafficking as I got into this novel.
The connection with music and Mitzi probably seems like a small thing for most readers. Mitzi knew what she was doing. She knew the songs she insisted Abra memorize would one day be needed. And the strength those words gave Abra.
You will want to add Bridge to Haven and The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto to your “To Read” list. According to Music: “There is a reason you glance up when you first hear a melody, or tap your foot to the sound of a drum. All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a heating heart?”