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Mar 02, 2016 12:37PM ● By Michael Harris

Trish- please place 6 book titles in italics



Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

Mitch, Frankie, and Isabel

Mitch Albom has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read his groundbreaking memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie, subtitled “an old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson.” It's the true story of Mitch reconnecting with his favorite college professor, Morrie Schwartz, sixteen years after graduating from Brandeis University.

By happenstance, Mitch, a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, sees a Nightline episode featuring an interview with Morrie, who is dying from ALS. This inspires Mitch to reconnect with this wise mentor whom he met on campus every Tuesday when he was a student. They take off right where they left off, with Mitch spending Tuesdays with Morrie and Morrie providing life lessons to his young protégé. If you haven't read this marvelous book or haven’t read it in a while, read it now.  You will be inspired the way I was the first time I read it.

Over the years, Mitch (whom I met years ago) has written other bestsellers, both fiction and nonfiction. While I enjoyed his other books, none grabbed me the way Tuesdays did until I read his latest novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. Narrated by the voice of music, this is a beautiful fable and not a true story, as some believe.  

An orphan raised in Spain by a blind musical Maestro, Frankie was a child prodigy who could play the guitar like nobody's business. He eventually moves to London, where he meets the love of his life, and then to the United States, where his artistry influences the greats and near greats of music. Frankie even stands in for Elvis at a concert and nobody knows the difference.

Eventually he becomes a rock star in his own right as his musical talents shift from classical, to jazz, and finally, to rock 'n roll. Overwhelmed by his fame, Frankie disappears for years, only to reappear magically and mysteriously. “Interviews” with music giants Little Richard, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Carole King, and Hank Williams describe Frankie’s incredible life and his inspiration as "the greatest guitarist who ever lived."

But the six “magical strings” on his guitar provided more than magnificent music. When Frankie strums them in a certain way, one turns blue. When this happens, Frankie’s talent changes somebody's life. Throughout the book, the voice of music reminds us that "everyone joins a band in this life,” whether it's with music, family or friends. This unforgettable parable will mesmerize you and open your ears to the music all around us.

Now, for another terrific author and marvelously told story. Isabel Allende is famous for novels and memoirs about her native Chile and Peru. Her books, written in Spanish and translated into English, deal with reflections on her family and romantic stories with a Latin theme. Her latest novel, The Japanese Lover, departs from the Latin theme. Nonetheless, it is one of the most romantic tales she's written.

The story centers on Alma Belasco, the adopted daughter of a prominent San Francisco Jewish family, and the son of their gardener, Ichimei Fukuda. They first meet when they are seven years old and continue a secret love affair for seven decades. Even through long separations, their passion continually draws them back to each other. Other prominent players in this love story are Alma’s caretaker, Irena, who struggles to overcome the nightmares of her childhood, and Alma’s grandson, Seth, who falls in love with Irena.

The book intertwines events that affect their lives, including the Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, and the AIDS epidemic, while remaining a beautifully written love story. This is a must for Allende fans.







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