A sparkling debut combining the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress.
When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?
Full of countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a heartwarming story of a mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who is pulled into their unforgettable world.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks
About the Author
Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.
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Because the station wagon blew up in the fire, Frank and I took the bus to the hospital.This story is narrated by Alice, who is assigned to assist Mimi by Mimi's editor Mr. Vargas. Mimi wrote a huge hit when she was nineteen, and has written nothing since (think Harper Lee). Now financial woes are driving her to write another novel.
When Alice arrives at Mimi's, she finds that she will actually be more of a babysitter to Mimi's son Frank than Mimi's assistant.
Frank...oh, Frank. How do you describe Frank? Well, he's described in the book as a miniature Charlie Chaplin. With the mind of Albert Einstein, he dresses like a 1930s movie star, and evokes in those close to him equal amounts of adoration and terror. He evoked the same emotions in me. I adored Frank, but I also don't really think I would choose to have a Frank in my life. Mimi isn't kidding when she says, "My life was so much easier before I had Frank." Frank who has to have scissors and matches hidden from him. For example, one time he uses a battery and wire to start a fire when Alice can't find matches.
"You're a genius, Frank," I said. "How did you think of doing that?"Dear Frank, who has outbursts (sometimes violent, but always attention-getting).
"Oh, I do it in my room all the time." he said.
"Don't do that, Frank. It worries people. What's wrong with you?"Frank is a handful, but he is also very endearing. Mimi is a very accommodating mother, letting Frank be Frank. She seems hard and stern, but she has a soft side with Frank. Her love for him is evident.
"The jury's still out on that one," Frank said.
Mimi wrapped her arms around Frank, and kissed the top of his head. Ah, Mimi. So what if she didn't like me? Every bit of affection she had she channeled to Frank, who needed it more than I did.Alice is doing her best to keep the house running, so Mimi can focus on writing. And she's doing a pretty fine (albeit thankless) job of it until Xander shows up and throws a bit of a hitch into things.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:
Tuesday, September 6th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, September 7th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, September 8th: Buried Under Books
Friday, September 9th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, September 13th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, September 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, September 15th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, September 16th: M. Denise Costello
Monday, September 19th: I Brought a Book
Tuesday, September 20th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, September 21st: Back Porchervations
Thursday, September 22nd: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Friday, September 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 26th: The Well-Read Redhead
Tuesday, September 27th: Becklist
Wednesday, September 28th: Reading is My Super Power
Thursday, September 29th: Art Books Coffee
Friday, September 30th: Sweet Southern Home
My final word: I really liked this story. It was sweet and touching and quirky, if sad at times. Alice is a fine and reliable narrator for the story, and she has an intuition on how to handle Frank. Mimi is a tough old bird, and she ironically has a lot of walls for someone who lives in a glass house. Frank is "misunderstood". In a Procrustean world that doesn't look kindly on "different", Frank is like a spotlight in a dark room. He stands out and at times he's somewhat glaring and ostentatious. This is a quick, sweet story full of interesting characters and offbeat moments. I will most definitely be recommending this one to my book club!
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The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.
I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher Harper-Collins through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.