The harmonica had a rich, ethereal quality – the same alluring sound he’d heard earlier in the graveyard room. The more he played, the more the air around him seemed to pulse with energy. He felt protected by the cloak of the music, as if nothing could stand in his way (p 76-77).
Three stories framed within a fairy tale follow three very different young people during times of great stress whose fates are tied to an enchanted harmonica.
October 1933, Germany : Friedrich, considered imperfect by the rising German Nazi regime because of a facial scar, finds solace in the harmonica’s soothing tones. He dreams of becoming a conductor while his world falls apart. When his father is hauled off by the Nazis, Friedrich embarks on a dangerous quest to save him.
June 1935, Pennsylvania : Mike, a gifted pianist, and his brother, Frankie, languish in an orphanage until they are adopted by a wealthy widow via her lawyer. Unfortunately, the widow wanted a girl, not two boy. Yet she agrees to keep them on until the mix up can be righted. In the meanwhile, Frankie happens upon the mysterious harmonica marked by a cursive ‘M’. Soon, Mike masters the harmonica but a misunderstanding leads to a mishap.
December 1942, California : Ivy is tired of migrant life. She just wants to play the flute and receive recognition for her talent, but with a brother fighting oversees, her family takes little joy in music. When a job takes them to an ethnically divided Orange County where the Japanese residents are under great scrutiny, Ivy must help unveil a potentially dangerous secret. At school, she is handed a harmonica with a cursive ‘M’ on it…
Each story is rich, well-developed and cut off abruptly until they are all tied together neatly and briefly in the final pages. An enchanting book that leaves the reader wanting more.