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 into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
My Thoughts: For some reason, I kept putting off reading Be Frank With Me, a book I downloaded in March 2016. The blurb obviously grabbed my attention enough for me to buy the book. So why did I wait so long?
Whatever my reluctance, I was immediately captivated by the nine-year-old boy Frank. A brilliant child with a head full of random facts, he also seemed to capture the affection of Alice, the new assistant. His strange behavior and odd costumes did not endear him to other children, but some of the staff at school found him lovable and tried to protect him from the others. However, the principal who arrived at the school late in the book was so smug and off-putting that he set off a chain of disastrous events that would change everything.
I had issues with the inappropriate and unreliable Xander, who also had his likable characteristics. His tendency to pop in and out of Frank’s life made me very curious about how he came to be part of this dysfunctional group.
Alice, as our narrator, offered her own theories as she, too, questioned Xander’s role. Was he a former lover of Mimi’s? Was he Frank’s father?
Mimi was self-absorbed, unreliable, and definitely unlikable most of the time. But then she would do something wonderful and make you question everything you thought you knew about her and her family.
Tragic events bring the story to an unexpected denouement, and then we are left trying to imagine what will happen to the characters. A 4.5 star read for me.