The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince was written by Prince's first wife, Mayte Garcia and dropped on the world close to the first anniversary of his untimely death. Garcia has taken some flack for that, and for the book in general, as Prince was a notoriously private person while he was alive and OMG HOW DARE SHE?!?!?
Slow your roll people.
Garcia is extremely candid in this book, admitting that it's "her truth," and for morbid celebrity gossip seekers - well this book is going to be a disappointment. Does Prince always come off looking good? Well, no (hey, the marriage did end in divorce). But Garcia avoids mud slinging. Nothing in these pages shocked me, but they wrecked me all the same. This is a love story between two people who, I believe after finishing the book, really, truly loved each other. They lost their way in a fog of unspeakable grief and weren't able to find their way back to each other.
Mayte Garcia is a Puerto Rican girl who fell in love with belly dancing. A military brat, her family lived all over the world and before she was a teenager she was dancing professionally, running her own business. She was mature beyond her years. Her parents marriage is...colorful. They went through periods of infidelity, the fights were often legendary, and by the close of the book she tells readers her parents have divorced each other, and remarried each other, twice. This girl was all business by the time she hit 16. That's the year she met Prince. Her family attended one of his concerts in Europe and struck by the Arabic vibe of the song "Thieves in the Temple" - her mother convinced Mayte to make him a compilation tape of her dancing. Incredibly, he actually watched it (can you imagine how many tapes people pressed on Prince over the years? Thousands, I'm sure!). They struck up a friendship, and that's all it was - until she was legal.
Mayte was grown-up beyond her years and knew how to handle herself - but she was a virgin, Prince being her first (take a moment to wrap your mind around that). This girl didn't stand a chance. Prince kept it all above board, but the way he slowly woos her - it's rather spectacular. And it's not like he showered her with endless gifts (although, yes - there was some of that) - but it was his actions, his gestures, his long conversations with her. While she had a career, and was not a "typical" teenage girl - I think back to my first and holy cow - Mayte Garcia's "first" was PRINCE!
What ultimately made me want to pick up this book is, no surprise, the man himself. I love Prince's music and think he's a genius artist - but that translates into...how to put this delicately....well, eccentricities. I wanted to know about the woman who 1) captured his heart enough to get him to settle down and 2) what it was like to be married to Prince, the genius artist with the eccentricities and foibles that come along with that level of genius. And Garcia doesn't disappoint. She spends the early chapters talking about her life, and then moves into entering the orbit of Paisley Park, her marriage to Prince, and the heartbreak that eventually tore them apart.
As a romance reader I loved this book because Garcia's love for her ex shines through on the page and listening to her words, I think it's obvious that Prince loved her as well. I positively swooned over pages, even though I recognize that a 16-year-old Mayte never had a chance. It was delayed gratification. A slow seduction built up over years of friendship and working together. So I can vibe to the fact that some would be uncomfortable with this relationship even though nothing "officially" happened until she was legally an adult. And I do think, for a while, Prince did only see her as a friend and fellow artist.
For those who know anything about this relationship, read any of the press back then or right before the book's release - you'll know Mayte and Prince had a child, a baby boy (Amiir) born with Pfeiffer Syndrome who only lived for a week after his birth. There was another pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage. Ultimately, I was left with the impression that this grief is what led to the demise of their marriage. So while the romantic moments, their friendship, the happy days of their marriage, will be something I think romance readers will adore - it's a punch in the gut during the second half. I listened to this on audio, which Garcia narrates, and she's a tour de force (cut to the chase and give her a Grammy right now). I can only imagine how hard it was for her to read, out loud, those chapters that dealt with her pregnancies and her son's death. And yes, she does get choked up, including in the final chapters when she talks about adopting her daughter, Gia. I cried with her as I was driving my car down the freeway to get to work.
Nothing I type here will likely change the minds of hardcore Prince fans who feel that Garcia is poo-poo'ing all over his legacy. What I can tell you is that listening to this book, hearing her story, hearing her truth - I believe strongly that she loved this man, and still loves him to this day. He shaped so much of her adult life, they shared immeasurable joy and unspeakable tragedy. That binds two people together - that's something that never goes away. This book is a gem.
Final Grade = A (and seriously, if audiobooks are your thing - I cannot recommend experiencing this story in that format strongly enough).