Julia Claiborne Johnson’s debut novel tells the story of M.M. Banning, a reclusive and eccentric American award winning author, and her equally eccentric nine-year old son Frank. Ms. Banning’s only novel, Pitched, made her a literary superstar and a comfortable living for 30 years. Now, Mimi, as she is known by her few friends, is forced to write a second novel due to losing her fortune to an investment scam. Mimi’s publisher sends a young assistant to help her while she completes writing her new novel.
Be Frank with Me, is a witty and touching novel by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Alice Whitley, the narrator of the story, is a young publishing associate from New York City that is sent to Bel Air, California to assist a reclusive and eccentric award winning author in any way that she can. Alice thinks that she is mostly going to help the esteemed author, M.M. Banning, also known as Mimi, by converting her typed pages into a digital format for publication. Alice ends up spending most of her time caring for Frank, M.M. Banning’s nine-year-old son. Frank is even more eccentric than his mother. Frank embraces the golden age of Hollywood with his massive knowledge of movies and his odd way of dressing. Frank’s behavior and ways suggest that he is autistic. Xander is a life-long friend of Mimi’s that also serves as a father figure for Frank. Tavia Gilbert narrates the audio version of the book, and she captures the essence of the four main characters so well, however, her “Frank” is the star of the show. If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, then you should like Be Frank with Me.