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 into 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.
Despite the obvious differences, when I read about Mimi and certain events of her life, my mind echoed with "Harper Lee".
You see, Alice is sent to Mimi from the publisher to *ahem* make sure the writer stays on task. Mimi allows Alice to stay to look after her son, Frank. While technically, this is not what Alice was sent there to do, Frank has more than his fair share of eccentricities, and would otherwise draw most of his mother's time and attention. To say that Frank rules the roost would be an understatement. But he's not a brat, or a spoiled child of a celebrity.
If you asked the school officials, I'm sure they would say that Frank should probably be in therapy, in special education, and definitely needed medication. I understand Mimi's frustration on that score. My oldest son's kindergarten teacher suggested that he needed ADHD medication. I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking her what she was doing teaching 5 year olds when she must have had a medical degree to know that my son 'needed' medication. (Not to worry, I'm stepping off the soapbox now and getting back to the review.)
Ms. Johnson writes with incredible sensitivity about Frank, and how he thinks and speaks and acts. I recognized the joys and heartaches of the adults who cared for and about Frank and his happiness.
Every time you think you know Frank, the nine-year-old comes up with a new twist or surprise that expands his character. While most of his 'quirks' would seem to add to the work of his mother, and Alice, he has so many endearing qualities as well. And he is instrumental in the surprise at the end of the book. (And no, I'm not going to tell you what it is. I'm quirky that way.)
Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle andGlamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and HarperCollins Publishers via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)