MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Be Frank With Me

by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson X
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2016, 256 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Prologue
February 2010

Because the station wagon blew up in the fire, Frank and I took the bus to the hospital. When I told him we'd get there in less than half the time in a taxi, Frank said, "I only ride in taxis with my mother. You are not my mother, Alice."

This was a fact. Once the kid latched onto a fact there was no point in trying to talk him around to practicalities. "Fine," I said. "We'll take the bus."

We hadn't been on the bus very long when Frank said, "People are staring at me."

So? You're fun to look at." This was also a fact. Frank was pretty in the angelic way ten- year- old boys are sometimes: skin all pink and white and smooth, outsized dark eyes with ridiculously long lashes, freckles spilled across his nose. He had red hair, but not the crazy, curly orange kind that gets kids cast in television commercials when they're four and ostracized on the playground when they've grown to a pasty, lumpy eleven. Frank's was the Irish setter auburn you almost never see in real life, shiny- smooth and heavy, with a way of falling across his forehead that made you think there was always a stylist standing just outside the frame, keeping it perfect. Casting agents would have gone nuts for him in the early days of Technicolor.

But his looks weren't what had our fellow travelers transfixed, certainly not in a place like Hollywood where gorgeous kids are so common that you even see them on city buses. No, what got people staring was Frank's look. Before we left the house that morning he'd shellacked his hair like a mini Rudolph Valentino, put on a wing- collared shirt, white tie and vest, a cutaway coat, morning pants, and spats. Also a top hat, which he balanced on his knees while we rode to the hospital because, as he'd explained to our bus driver when the man admired it, "A gentleman never wears his hat indoors."

I was the only person on that bus who understood what a sacrifice it was for him not to wear the hat. Out in the world, Frank needed to be 100 percent buttoned up, buckled down and helmeted, even if it were a hundred degrees outside. Seasonally inappropriate is what mental health factotums call his way of dressing, while people into fashion call it style

"Alice, can you make the people staring at me stop staring at me?" he asked.

"I can't," I said. "Close your eyes so you can't see them."

He did, and put his head on my shoulder. I almost put my arm around him, but stopped myself in time. When he leaned against me I caught a whiff of fire and maybe a little brimstone. Frank usually smelled like a mix of lavender and rosemary and little boy sweat so I guessed the smoke had gotten its fingers into his wardrobe, even if the fire hadn't. I'd have to take all his outfits to the cleaners. I'd have to rent a U- Haul.

"They're just staring because you're the only kid on the bus dressed in a morning suit," I added.

"I chose this ensemble because I am in mourning," he said. He sat up and turned his face toward me, but kept his eyes squeezed shut.

"Your mother is going to be fine," I said. I hoped I wasn't lying. "For the record, that kind of mourning, the feeling sad kind, is spelled m- o- u- r- n- i- n- g . Morning like a morning suit is spelled m- o- r- n- i- n- g"

"I am not a good speller."

"We all have our strengths and weaknesses."

"I imagine Albert Einstein was a bad speller," Frank said, settling against me again. "A bad speller, with terrible penmanship. Despite these shortcomings, Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Do you think Einstein's mom cared about his spelling and penmanship?"

"Probably," I said. "Mothers are like that. It's their job to sweat the details, don't you think?"

Excerpted from Be Frank With Me by Spencer Johnson. Copyright © 2016 by Spencer Johnson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...
  • Book Jacket
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Cantoras
    by Carolina De Robertis
    Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis follows five characters who share a house, troubles, joys and parts...
  • Book Jacket: Daughters Of Smoke & Fire
    Daughters Of Smoke & Fire
    by Ava Homa
    Ava Homa's debut novel begins with an epigraph by Sherko Bekas, a Kurdish poet, the last lines of ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Of Bears and Ballots

An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics

A charming account of holding local office with an entertaining, quirky cast of characters.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.