1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Be Frank with Me  By  cover art

Be Frank with Me

By: Julia Claiborne Johnson
Narrated by: Tavia Gilbert
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $28.51

Buy for $28.51

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

Winner, 2017 APA Audie Awards - Best Female Narrator

A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the pause-resisting spirit of Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

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 in to the Banning family equation - and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless "only in Hollywood" moments, 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.

©2016 Julia Claiborne Johnson (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Be prepared to put your life on hold once you start this audiobook.... [Narrator Tavia] Gilbert nails the rhythm of Frank's unique speech pattern while instilling his dialogue with charm and innocence. She transitions so seamlessly between Alice and Frank that listeners may forget there's only one narrator. Don't miss this outstanding production." (AudioFile)

What listeners say about Be Frank with Me

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,272
  • 4 Stars
    1,366
  • 3 Stars
    557
  • 2 Stars
    122
  • 1 Stars
    56
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,851
  • 4 Stars
    807
  • 3 Stars
    248
  • 2 Stars
    53
  • 1 Stars
    36
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,967
  • 4 Stars
    1,224
  • 3 Stars
    595
  • 2 Stars
    136
  • 1 Stars
    67

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Whirlwind

First, Gilbert did a fantastic job with the narration for this book. She was amazing. Midway through the--I can't say reading--I have to say performance--I had to remind myself that it was just one person voicing all the characters. Just perfect.

I found myself smiling as I listened. The story is so eccentric, so charming, weird and quirky that I had a hard time not listening every minute. I loved the dialogue, the characters and most of all the interaction between this odd troop of people brought to life by Johnson.

Be aware that this is a happy & positive book overall--but swirls around past failures, mistakes and disasters that the characters try hard to make up for and to set right after the fact. It's often like an old I Love Lucy episode--the harder they try the more things go wrong. Johnson's writing captures the funny side of life--but it isn't all fun and games. Multidimensional, kind, and at times sad. I really enjoyed the book. I might just listen again.

143 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

4.5 stars -- more resolution would give it 5

One of my all time favorite books is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. And when I met Frank I was happy to find another sad, unique, odd, charming, sweet and strange child to love. Something inside of me sighed; something inside of me thrilled. I was intensely emotional about this little boy. And as the story unfolded I found myself interested in some of the characters who loved him as well.

However, the last act of this wonderful first effort was all too brief. There was virtually no resolution. My heart aches for Alice. And I am grieving for my own loss of this child in my life. All of that merits a good review, but just a little more - or better yet, a lot more - would put this book in the 5 star range. John Irving is a master. He builds tension, love and story with each word placed perfectly. Ms Johnson could become a master if she gave the reader more of what she already did so well -- more depth to each character, more analysis of the plot and much, much more resolution.

All in all, I found it a wonderful debut and look forward to her sophomore effort.

91 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Frankly, Charming


As has been noted by almost every professional review -- yes, this is a bit derivative of the Salinger effect, and also a bit improbable, a little anachronistic in more ways than just the wardrobe choices -- but, Be Frank With Me has few comparisons when it comes to originality (the closest might be Where'd You Go, Bernadette), and don't we all need to read a little sweetness at times. It's clever in a fresh way, laugh-out-loud funny in a smart benevolent way, and at the same time there is something reminiscent of the struggling child in all of us and the enduring love of a mother that nudges this a little closer to your heart than true objectivity should. All of that is miraculously achieved without sentimentality or using the character's flaws alone to fuel the story. You never find yourself laughing at this group of oddities, you laugh with the human race and our inherent flaws. OK; I admit some of them are as out of central casting as Greta Garbo, Kirk Douglas, Buster Keaton, or at least a lot of stereotypes you'd expect from the Hollywood backlots.....and also, that feel-good books are not my wheelhouse.

The producers of this audio book cast a near-perfect narrator in Tavia Gilbert. If the advent of talkies could be blamed for the eventual careening careers of several silent super-stars, a poor narrator can instantly doom even the best written words. As wonderful as John Irving writes characters -- I mean I read A Prayer for Owen Meany and fell in love with Irving in 1989 -- Joe Barrett, whom narrated the audible version of that same book in 2009, endeared that poor little boy "with the wrecked voice," "the instrument of my mother's death," Owen, to me and created a place in my heart where Owen still vividly resides (as well as does one of the best opening sentences ever written in any book). Gilbert does a similar job with capturing the nuances of young Frank, who's monotone encyclopedic conversation makes all that is missing from this sweet little guy just scream at you. He also reminded me of another favorite child from a great novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog's twelve-year-old genius, Paloma. The similarities are the intelligence and precocious nature of the child -- which in Frank's case I suspect is more attributed to a case of Tourette's Syndrome than just sheer genius. An excellent choice for a listen.

That said, Johnson's debut novel is a well-written winner, but doesn't exactly cross the finish line as such. At least Mary Poppins was lifted away with her parrot-head-handled umbrella after a job well completed. The family was intact, on track, and the cast was feeding birds, flying kites, and still dancing merrily (albeit dirtily) on the smoke-choked rooftops of London. Meanwhile, Johnson abandons such glorious curtain drops: Alice drives back to NY without ever resolving the antipathy of Mimi; Frank still has to outgrow his serious *quirks,* before his next outfit is chosen for him from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest;" the reclusive and imperious Mimi seems about to have an unwanted meeting with DCFS; and the mysterious Xander will eventual find his philandering charms tarnished by his poverty. Left dangling on the trajectory that Johnson has her characters on (and very soon after the nanny and the agent disappear into the sunset) the story could become just another book capitalizing on Hollyweird. The ending is a little like having a book slammed in your face and leaving you wondering if there's another chapter. It may all be there between the lines, but I wasn't searching for deep innuendo between chuckles, and felt Johnson left us hanging a little too much. But there's probably no where else for these characters to go and still keep us smiling.

My personal little wish for some kind of wrap up wasn't enough to tarnish that 4th star I volleyed with. A great debut: well -written, original, fun, heart-warming. Thoroughly enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to Johnson's next book.

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

My favorite fiction read of 2018 so far

Lots of good, in-depth reviews for this book here on Audible--that alone should tell you how good the book is, so I'll say this: This book is about everything I'm totally sick of--autistic kid (though Frank is never called "autistic" outright), LA, early 20s female protagonist, but I absolutely loved this book. So well written, characters so interesting, etc. I suspect the audio performer probably kicked it up to five stars for me. It's true, you really do feel as if each character is voiced by a different person.

51 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

I kept waiting for something...

The narrator was excellent. But the end was like reading a diary that ran out of pages without solidifying the impact of the life upon the reader.

36 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Inane!

Five chapters into this book and I still don’t get the point. Chapter after chapter of mostly inane facts Frank has amassed in his 10 year old brain. Supposedly it pains him to hold all this knowledge in! Excruciatingly bored me to frustration. Hoping for something interesting to catch my attention, I endured the annoying monotone but fast rambling of the narrator as Frank. Finally had to give it up and say, Who cares? Where’s the story here? Don’t waste your time or money.

24 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!

Wonderful story, brilliant performance. This was a book that I never wanted to end. Excellent characters perfectly drawn and a narrator who brought them to life so much so that I actually was late to work because I didn’t want to turn it off! I wish that they were all this good… Bravo!

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Quirky and heartwarming

Like Alice once I got past the flat affect I loved Frank. Mimi not so much. Frank and Alice are so real, all the other characters seemed superfluous. Ms Johnson did a thorough job of Franks character through Alice's eyes.

I would imagine that giving a voice to Frank was difficult. Ms Gilbert did a great job .

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Outstanding narration, decent story

I completely enjoyed the narration. It was hard to believe she voiced all of the characters herself. The Audie for best female narration was justified by her excellent work. I’ve enjoyed every book i have heard that she’s narrated barring one, Two Girls Down, which I found to be poorly written.

The story... I became frustrated with the, for lack of a better word, under-parenting of Frank by all 3 adults in his life. There were times, driving down the road when i’d feel like yelling “NO!” when Frank’s antics got out of hand & the adults failed to correct his behavior.

However, my biggest problem is the lack of resolution of MiMi’s project. We are READERS, we want to know what happened with the BOOK. Was it good? Did it sell?

I kept waiting to find out. Instead, the story ended abruptly. I was quite disappointed.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Don't understand the positive reviews

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Not sure. Not sure at all.

What was most disappointing about Julia Claiborne Johnson’s story?

The unbelievable story and the utterly unlikable characters. One character is abusive and neglectful. One is criminally negligent. And one is utterly incompetent -- a supposed teacher who has no clue what the autistic spectrum looks like and who constantly lies to pretty much everyone in the book while judging them, poor thing. Was I supposed to like these people?

Would you be willing to try another one of Tavia Gilbert’s performances?

Sure. The narration was OK. It was hard to rise above the truly awful characters.

What character would you cut from Be Frank with Me?

All of them...except maybe Mr. Vargas.

Any additional comments?

Avoid this one.

14 people found this helpful