I was looking for an audiobook for my beast of a commute to work (an hour/hour 15 each way) and checked for an audie award winner and this one won for best female narrator and that was good enough for me! I knew diddly about it, but figured it would be something to pass the time, and to that end, I was correct. Well-written, interesting, and filled with fun characters it had all the markings of a good novel but I didn’t like some of the choices, which felt abrupt and unmotivated, so in the end I think I won’t remember much about this novel other than the titular Frank, who is one for the record books.
Tavia Gilbert does an amazing job with the audio capturing Frank, a 4th grader with a penchant for dressing like a member of the social elite in the 1930s, a lover of movies of that era, and a vocabulary and memory that would rival any adult. He has grown up isolated with his reclusive author mother in a Hollywood mansion. But when his mother Mimi falls victim to a Ponzi scheme, she needs assistance with the minutiae of daily living so she can write her second novel and get herself out of her dire financial situation. Enter Alice, the assistant of Mimi’s publisher, who is hired as a hybrid nanny/housekeeper/and babysitter (in some respects, to babysit Mimi as much as Frank).
It’s a weird dynamic, weirder when Zander (Xander?) the reliably unreliable handyman enters the picture. This is an absurdist book, I could see it as a convincing and plucky Wes Anderson movie, but for me the whole doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Frank is lonely and lovely and his interactions with other children is heartbreaking, but the other characters don’t add up. Particularly, Alice’s romantic interlude is out of left field for me, as she is the portrayed as the straight woman to this bizarre cast of characters. In addition, Mimi is relentlessly terrible and I never understand why Alice doesn’t stand up for herself a little better, her character definitely left me wanting.
If you are looking for an audiobook, I’d recommend this one, but not sure I’d recommend tucking into it in another format.