Mar 24, 2016JCLChrisK rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
A book of stories connected by a thread of magic. A thread that takes the form of a magical harmonica. A harmonica that embodies the magic of music. A magic that isn't really magical, because it's created by the characters in the form of their music, perseverance, compassion, and adherence to ideals.
The book is framed by two brief stories, one a fairy tale and one about a young German boy who wanders into the fairy tale. The first of the longer stories follows young Friedrich in 1933, part of a German family not willing to join the Nazi party when other options are becoming scarce. The second is set in rural Pennsylvania in 1935, and follows brothers Mike and Frankie as they try desperately to escape the orphanage where they've landed. The third follows Ivy and her Latino family as they try to farm their way out of poverty in Southern California in 1942, and the Japanese family that might offer a route.
Each story is suspenseful and engaging. Each character faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles imposed by larger forces. Each tale ends on a dark cliffhanger--though there is a short fourth part which I won't describe that provides connection and resolution. And each protagonist is a gifted musician hoping music might provide a way out of the darkness, with a theme song for each of their sections.
I'm particularly glad that I listened to the audio version of this book, because a large cast of musicians provided the music the characters played throughout the book. It is an excellent production.
I wasn't quite enchanted enough to say that this book is magical, but it comes awfully close. Bravo! 4.5 stars.