Be Frank With Me

Be Frank With Me

Book - 2016
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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.
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062413710
Branch Call Number: Johnson, J
Characteristics: 287 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Fiction. Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning is writing her first book in decades. 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 Noël Coward, the wardrobe of... Read More »

Hired to assist a famed reclusive writer trying to recapture her lost fortunes by completing a new manuscript, Alice becomes obsessed with identifying the paternity of her employer's precocious young son. - Denise, Reader Services Librarian

This best word to describe this debut novel is charming. Absolutely charming. A story about a reclusive author finally getting around to writing her next book, the assistant to her literary agent sent to make sure she actually writes the novel, and most of all her wonderful and quirky son, Frank.... Read More »

BostonPL_LauraB Mar 02, 2016

This book was so wonderful! A light, comedic, heartwarming read about the son (Frank) of a popular one-time author who is now a recluse in Bel Air. Told from the perspective of the assistant sent to help out said author so that she can (finally) write a new novel, you can't help fall in love with... Read More »

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Nov 27, 2020

Your heart will soar, break, then swell again as you get to know Frank, a "little man" unlike any other child (in years on the earth only) character I have ever encountered. What a pure pleasure.

Sep 01, 2020

I loved this book. It's not profound or painful. Rather it is extraordinarily life-affirming and optimistic. It is an easy and extremely entertaining read. I adore this author and can't wait to read her other books.
I also love that she is a "mature" debut author.

PerthEastLibrary Dec 19, 2018

Our PEPL Book Club just completed, "Be Frank With Me" and our readers gave it anywhere from 3.5 to 5 stars. As a group we enjoyed the book, having discussions about our appreciation that Frank wasn't diagnosed/labelled, a discussion about Frank's father and could the anonymous donor have actually been a character we read about, and whether or not as a society we've made any progress regarding how we treat people who are different than us.

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).

CRRL_MegRaymond Aug 01, 2017

A reclusive literary legend needs money after falling for a ponzi scheme. Her new book is due, but she hasn’t actually, uhm, written it yet. So her publisher sends her an assistant to make sure the deadline is met.

ArapahoeChristine Jun 17, 2017

I love this book! I have a child on the autism spectrum and I literally laughed-out-loud at some of the antics between Alice and Frank.

SCL_Tricia Feb 27, 2017

Mimi Banning wrote one book twenty years ago - a brilliant book that brought her wealth and fame. But Mimi is a recluse. Having fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme she must write another novel, immediately. She needs someone to watch Frank , her son, and run her household while she writes. Her publisher sends her twenty something Alice.

That's the basic premise. But the premise is only a vehicle for the most wonderful character writing. All of the players in Be Frank With Me were well written - and they're all flawed in some fashion, but it's Frank that will capture your heart.

I loved him from the first page..."Before we left the house that morning, he'd shellacked his hair like a mini Rudolph Valentino, put on a wing-collared shirt, white tie and vest, a cutaway coat, morning pants and spats. Also a top hat...."

Frank chooses his outfit carefully each day, matching plans, excursions and adventures to his outfits. That's the outside of Frank. Inside is a boy with a brilliant mind, who doesn't quite see the world as everyone else does. But despite that brilliant mind, he's still a young boy who is fragile as he tries to make sense of relationships and interactions in that world.

The dialogue in Be Frank With Me is superb - Frank's voice is wonderful and as we come to know Frank, his declarations and antics really do make sense. I loved his recollection of facts, movies and music. (And actually learned a few things as well!) But those facts serve another purpose as well..."Facts were all the protection he had. Facts were his force field." Mimi is quite prickly and at first I didn't like her. But as the novel progressed, my opinion changed. As did my views on Alice - good to bad to good. And that's what I enjoyed - no one was perfect and the ending wasn't all happy campers.

By turns, Be Frank With Me is heartbreaking, humorous and oh so very, very good. As one character says" I love that kid". Trust me - you will too.

Dec 02, 2016

If Eloise were "on the spectrum". What more could a reader want in a character?! Claiborne Johnson has an excellent sense of humor that she articulates in a wholly satisfying way.

ArapahoePamelaH Aug 16, 2016

Funny and engaging story of the extremely eccentric 9-year old Frank and his reclusive single mother Mimi, a famous author. Very warm hearted, enjoyable, and a good discussion book.

ArapahoeAndrew Aug 02, 2016

A charming, if maybe a little underwhelming, read. It has the always entertaining "child genius" trope going for it, which I do genuinely enjoy, though the plot left something to be desired.

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ArapahoeChristine Jun 17, 2017

He’s an odd duck, but brilliant children often are. It may take him a while, but someday he’ll figure out how to live in the world of ordinary mortals.


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