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A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the pause-resisting 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 after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, she's flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies - with a few stipulations: no Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she's put to work right away - as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer's eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank's father is, how his gorgeous "piano teacher and itinerant male role model", Xander, fits in to the Banning family equation - and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
Full of heart and countless "only in Hollywood" moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sara on 09-02-16
First, Gilbert did a fantastic job with the narration for this book. She was amazing. Midway through the--I can't say reading--I have to say performance--I had to remind myself that it was just one person voicing all the characters. Just perfect.
I found myself smiling as I listened. The story is so eccentric, so charming, weird and quirky that I had a hard time not listening every minute. I loved the dialogue, the characters and most of all the interaction between this odd troop of people brought to life by Johnson.
Be aware that this is a happy & positive book overall--but swirls around past failures, mistakes and disasters that the characters try hard to make up for and to set right after the fact. It's often like an old I Love Lucy episode--the harder they try the more things go wrong. Johnson's writing captures the funny side of life--but it isn't all fun and games. Multidimensional, kind, and at times sad. I really enjoyed the book. I might just listen again.
57 of 64 people found this review helpful
By Kelly on 02-02-16
4.5 stars -- more resolution would give it 5
One of my all time favorite books is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. And when I met Frank I was happy to find another sad, unique, odd, charming, sweet and strange child to love. Something inside of me sighed; something inside of me thrilled. I was intensely emotional about this little boy. And as the story unfolded I found myself interested in some of the characters who loved him as well.
However, the last act of this wonderful first effort was all too brief. There was virtually no resolution. My heart aches for Alice. And I am grieving for my own loss of this child in my life. All of that merits a good review, but just a little more - or better yet, a lot more - would put this book in the 5 star range. John Irving is a master. He builds tension, love and story with each word placed perfectly. Ms Johnson could become a master if she gave the reader more of what she already did so well -- more depth to each character, more analysis of the plot and much, much more resolution.
All in all, I found it a wonderful debut and look forward to her sophomore effort.
33 of 37 people found this review helpful