Steve Lopez is a reporter for the LA Times. One day while walking along, minding his own business he comes across quite a character. Buy the look of him; he is homeless and playing a violin. Steve is looking for his next column and when he comes across Nathaniel Anthony Ayers he is mesmerized.
When Steve tries to talk to him, Nathaniel is in a world of his own playing a violin with only 2 strings, but it strikes him as odd that this man is actually doing quite well for only having a few strings whilst playing classical music. As time goes on and Steve catches up with Nathaniel a few more times, he finds out that he was once a student at Julliard the famous school for artists back in the 70’s. So, now thinking that he does have a story, he checks out the Julliard angle and comes out flat, but then they call back and say they did have a student by that name attend, but dropped out.
In this journey of finding a story for his column, Steve uncovers something more then he imagined possible. A man who is living with a mental illness (Schizophrenia), a promising future as a cellist that came to an abrupt end as the illness took hold, and the principals that this man possesses even though he is homeless, poor, and somewhat odd looking.
Steve befriends Nathaniel, and as the relationship grows, there are pains as well; Nathaniel wants to live on the streets, he doesn’t want medication, his love of music seems to calm him when nothing else will in a world that has all but forgotten about him and his amazing talent.
For Nathaniel, music is a type of therapy for him; it soothes the mind, body and soul. It doesn’t matter to him if the violin has only two strings, it matters to him he is able to make music.
I have to admit, I watched the movie before reading the book, but in comparison, the book delves deeper into the deeper issues of Nathaniel’s illness and the mental health aspect of being treated, accessing health care in America, and the love and admiration that not only Nathaniel and Steve poses for music, but it is the basic principal of being a friend to one that has been down on his luck, trying to assist them to having a better life, while accepting their limitations whether how frivolous or silly may it seem to us.
It gives us some pause to reflect to try and help these people who may or may not want help in whatever situation that they are in. Just to be there for him. For Steve, it has opened up a whole other realm for him personally and for Nathaniel as well.
Poignant, loving, frustrating, and at times full of sadness, this is one book/movie I will cherish for a very long time.
If you haven’t already read the book or watched the movie I very highly recommend it, simply amazing.