Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

I was excited to read this debut novel that was touted as having elements of Eloise and Where’d You Go, Bernadette, two books I love.  When reclusive novelist M. M. (Mimi) Banning needs to come out of her decades-long writing hiatus for financial reasons, her publisher sends Alice Whitley to L.A. to help her with whatever she needs in order to get her book finished. Alice’s main job is to be a companion to Mimi’s son Frank, whose IQ is “higher than 99.7% of the American public” and who dresses to fit into the old Hollywood movies he loves (top hat and tails, smoking jacket, monocle). With no friends his own age, Frank relies on his adoring but prickly mother and charming but unreliable handyman Xander for companionship. Alice is pulled into their eccentric lives and becomes part of this makeshift family full of secrets. Who is Frank’s father? Will Mimi finish the novel? What is Xander’s story?  I actually wanted to give all of the characters a good smack quite frequently, but they all – especially Frank – won my heart and I was sorry to say goodbye to them as I closed the book. The blurb from comedian Dave Foley sums it up: “it will delight both the thinky and the feely parts of your brain.”  (Submitted by Gayle).

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