"All lonely roads lead back to Music" in this sentimental journey that might be a mashup of the lives of shooting stars like...

THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO

At the funeral of guitar superstar Frankie Presto, who disappeared at the peak of his fame, the Spirit of Music looks back on his life from his birth in a church during the Spanish Civil War to his years as “the next Elvis Presley.”

In Albom's latest mystical tale (The First Phone Call from Heaven, 2013, etc.), Francisco's mother dies after giving birth. The newborn is rescued by a nun, but she’s soon overwhelmed and, Moses-like, casts him adrift in the Mijares River, where he's found by Baffa Rubio’s hairless dog. Rubio later runs afoul of Franco’s thugs, and Francisco, only 9, is smuggled from Spain on a tramp freighter by El Maestro, his blind guitar instructor. In London, surviving as a busker, Francisco meets Django Reinhardt when the legendary guitarist is on his way to play with Duke Ellington in America. Francisco travels with him, his talent soon to earn international acclaim. Though a guitar virtuoso, Francisco neglects the beloved instrument to become a pop star, joining the glitterati. The moral? "Fame is addictive." Over decades, Francisco meets a litany of musicians, including Roger McGuinn, Burt Bacharach, Tony Bennett, and Paul Stanley of KISS, who reminisce in separate chapters while Music (imagine James Earl Jones reading poetry) spins out Francisco’s life story. There are occasional odd descriptive phrases like "with hair the color of dark grapes," but Albom can elicit tears when he writes about loss, and he has fun with you-are-there butterfly-effect anecdotes, as when Francisco tells Hank Williams not to buy a baby blue Cadillac, the car in which he would ride to his death.

"All lonely roads lead back to Music" in this sentimental journey that might be a mashup of the lives of shooting stars like Bobby Darin or Ricky Nelson.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229441-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

WINTER GARDEN

A Russian refugee’s terrible secret overshadows her family life.

Meredith, heir apparent to her family’s thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother’s true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family’s prosperity and the significance of her “winter garden” with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya’s mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer “white nights” of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance—her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember—keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters’ snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin’s terror or during the German army’s siege of Leningrad. Anya’s chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a million civilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters’ more conventional “issues.” The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending.

Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-36412-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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