A reclusive author hasn’t published anything since her record-breaking best selling novel must now write in order to keep a roof over her head.
A young woman moves from New York to LA to become the author’s full-time assistant and finds she must take care of the author’s eccentric son instead.
A 9-year-old boy obsessed with old Hollywood and extreme fashion enlists his mother’s assistant to help him uncover the identity of his father.
Combine the three and you have the delightfully charming book, Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.
Want to know more about this delightfully quirky book? (I don’t know why you wouldn't want to pick this one up for the cover alone. There’s a top hat and a monocle for goodness sake!) Read more to find out!
Be Frank With Me is one of those stories that combines the unique ideas and heartwarming plot to make a light and fun tale. Frank is the 9-year-old son of M. M. (Mimi) Banning, the author who has won “a Pulitzer and a National Book Award by the time she turned 20”. Mimi finds herself running out of money from her first book, and now must write again in order to make ends meet. Enter Alice, a young woman with stars in her eyes. She comes to LA in hopes of writing Mimi’s manuscript but soon finds herself as Frank’s full-time caretaker so Mimi can concentrate on her writing.
And it certainly is full-time. Frank has Alice constantly involved in different adventures from dressing up as a dapper Hollywood movie star to helping him learn how to deal with his fellow Fourth graders. Frank steals the show with this one. He’s an old soul, one of those “13 going on 30” types (except that he’s 9). Frank stands out from his classmates because of his style, his taste, and even the way he speaks. He emulates the classic Hollywood stars and watches Casablanca on repeat. Honestly, I would love to have someone like Frank to hang out with each day. His tastes are just up my alley! (I’m sure my friends would love it if I stopped nagging them to watch Singin’ in the Rain with me one more time.)
The real meat of the story comes when Frank decides Alice will help him find his father. Mimi doesn’t talk about it, and Frank has his own ideas about who it could be (maybe an old Hollywood flame of Mimi’s or his handsome piano teacher?). Just when you think you have it figured out, Frank throws another wrench in the works and the adventure continues.
The characters in this one are so vastly different that it’s fun just keeping up with how they interact. Mimi is constantly moody, a dark contrast to her son. Frank is eccentric but lovable, quite along the same lines as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. Alice is young and naive, but it helps with her relationships with Mimi and Frank. Her innocence allows us readers to see this family with fresh eyes, learning along with her.
There’s plenty for everyone to love in this book. It has laugh out loud moments, unbelievable hijinks, and heartfelt moments that allow readers to think about some deeper questions. Things like how we respond and react to our guilt and the value put on conformity. There’s explosions, a small mystery, and a whole lot of love. I think that covers all the bases of a fantastic book.
TL/DR: Be Frank With Me is a quirky book that you’ll pick up for the eccentric characters and stay for the relationships.
Rating: 4/5 stars
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