Be Frank with Me– A Goodreads Review Five glorious stars. I loved this story!
Did you ever have one of those beginning jobs that turned out totally different than you predicted? In Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me, that’s what happens to Alice, a twenty-something intern in a big publishing house. She’s sent by her boss, an editor, to assist the reclusive, but world-renowned writer, M. M. Banning.
Banning wrote Pitch, a novel that might be as classic as To Kill A Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye, and because of bad investments, she’s broke—she needs to publish something new and it must be finished pronto. Hard to do when everyone expects it to rival the best-selling first novel that the world and Alice’s mother loved.
Alice still has her mother’s dog-eared copy, and she’s read it over and over. Not that she’s going to tell Banning as the author might lump her in with all the die-hard fans who try to break in just to catch a glimpse of their idol.
Alice hopes to be friends, to work hand and glove with Banning, and be a part of creating the writer’s long-awaited, next great novel. However, from the get-go, these hopes are dashed. The writer is standoffish, and cold. She locks herself in her office and saddles Alice with the care of her son—Frank.
Frank is the reason the writer can’t get any work done. Although his condition is never explained, I’m guessing he’s on the autism-spectrum. Frank is in grade school, yet he insists on dressing in costume, and his behavior is delightfully eccentric. He does things like throwing objects into tree branches to create make-shift art galleries.
He brilliantly discusses the characters, special effects, and plot twists of movies. He’s super intelligent and better read than most adults. He spouts zillions of facts; however, if he’s touched, he goes rigid and falls to the floor. If his things are touched, he beats his head into the closest hard object. If he’s asked to stay mum about a statistic or factoid he knows, he rocks. It’s clear he’s not being bratty. He has a problem.
At the same time, he’s sweet and likable—just extremely different. He struggles to relate to other humans around him. His oddness causes classmates to pick on him and strangers to stare.
Frank makes the novel. If you’re like me, you’ll learn to love Frank as Alice does. And you’ll understand and come to care about Banning, and all the other vivid characters, so that when tragedy strikes, you’ll have to keep turning pages to find out if Frank and his mom will be okay.
You might even want to adopt Frank. I did. Instead, I settled for reading the book a second and a third time.
If you like odd, but likable characters, and heartfelt stories told from a close point-of-view, this is a book to check out. I don’t own this book yet, but as soon as my local library doesn’t have a copy I can borrow, I’ll spring for one.