JULIA CLAIBORNE JOHNSON reads from her novel BE FRANK WITH ME

Posted in , literature, skylight books, los angeles, book stores by skylightbooks on February 15th, 2016

Be Frank with Me (William Morrow & Company)

Be Frank with Me, with its eccentric characters in self-imposed isolation, their grand but sometimes misunderstood gestures, and idiosyncratic approach to coping with the ordinary world, captures the intensity of growing up just a little bit different than everybody else. Or, in Frank’s case, a lot different from everybody else. Already called “magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original” (Library Journal), Kirkus summed it up as “the curious case of where’d you go, Salinger.” It’s a spot-on description, as Be Frank with Me has the poignant quirks of Haddon, the effervescent spirit of Semple and, at its center, a Salingeresque reclusive literary legend. 

That legend is the enigmatic M.M. “Mimi” Banning, holed up in her Bel Air mansion for the quarter-century since her classic but still-best-selling first novel’s publication. Broke after losing her savings in a Ponzi scheme, Mimi now must write her long-awaited second book. To ensure the timely delivery of her long-anticipated manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi outlines the parametes for an acceptable assistant: 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 Mimi’s son, Frank. The kid, Alice discovers, sees world in a very different—but completely fascinating—way. With little to entertain them but the sound of Mimi typing behind closed doors, Alice and her eccentric companion decide to embark on a series of giddy adventures in the greater world of Los Angeles. To occupy her imagination her downtime, 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, but with a deep ring of truth, 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.

Praise for Be Frank with Me

“Johnson’s magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original debut goes beyond page-turner status. Readers will race to the next sentence. And the next. Her charming, flawed, quietly courageous characters, each wonderfully different, demand a second reading while we impatiently await the author’s second work.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Witty dialogue, irresistible characters, and a touch of mystery make this sweet debut about a quirky Hollywood family an enjoyable page-turner.” —Booklist

“The curious incident of where’d you go, Salinger: clever, sweet.”—Kirkus Reviews

“What a charmer this book is! From the very first page, I fell hard for Frank, an adorable oddball with anamazing brain, a wardrobe to die for, and a lonely fragility that pierced my heart again and again. When I finished, I wished him and his makeshift, off-beat family well—and immediately began missing him.”—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times-bestselling author of Love Walked In and The Precious One

“There’s so much to love about this novel: the hilarious one-liners, the unforgettable characters, the unexpected moments of tenderness and all the funny, sad, poignant twists and turns this story takes. I lost myself in these pages and you will too.”—John Searles, nationally-bestselling author of Help for the Haunted

“Beautifully written, brimming with insight, mystery, and benevolent wit, Julia Johnson had me gripped from the first chapter to the final page of Be Frank with Me.”—Julia Sweeney, author, actress, comedienne

Be Frank with Me is complex, nuanced, detailed and profound. In other words, funny, in the best, most resonant way. Read it with both eyes because it will delight both the thinky and the feely parts of your brain.” —Dave Foley, comedian and, technically, an actor

“Julia Claiborne Johnson has written an effervescent gem of a novel, expertly balancing on a literary tightrope between lighthearted and heartbreaking. Be Frank with Me is peopled by characters at once utterly unique, and entirely authentic. I may re-read this book just to spend more time with Frank.” —Laura Nicole Diamond, author of Shelter Us

“BE FRANK WITH ME is that rare, hits-me-just-right book I am always hoping to find when browsing: Witty, but never cutesy. Deeply felt, but never sentimental. Peopled with deeply flawed, fully realized characters I cared about. It pulled me in so strongly that I found myself reading in that whole body way that is a rare and luminous pleasure after childhood, so immersed that the phone and the dogs and the kids had to work to pull me out. I loved every minute I spent in Julia Claiborne Johnson’s glass house with her cast of dedicated stone-throwers. This one is special—don’t miss it.”—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times-bestselling author of The Opposite of Everyone

“Julia Claiborne Johnson has struck gold in creating Frank Banning—a one-of-a-kind exasperating, witty and endearing nine-year-old genius who functions as the beating heart of this marvelous book.”—Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members

Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.


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