Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron, Chad Beckerman, Chad Beckerman
What does you in--brain or heart?
Frannie asks herself this question when, a week before she turns fifteen, her dad dies, leaving her suddenly deprived of the only human being on planet Earth she feels understands her. Frannie struggles to make sense of a world that no longer seems safe, a world in which one moment can turn things so thoroughly for the worse. She discovers an elegant wooden box with an inscription: Frances Anne 1000. Inside, Frannie finds one thousand hand-painted and -carved puzzle pieces. She wonders if her father had a premonition of his death and finished her birthday present early. Feeling broken into pieces herself, Frannie slowly puts the puzzle together, bit by bit. But as she works, something remarkable begins to happen: She is catapulted into an ancient foreign landscape, a place suspended in time where she can discover her father as he was B.F.--before Frannie.
Delia Ephron makes you laugh and makes you cry--often at the same time!
Delia Ephron is a critically acclaimed novelist and screenwriter. Her most recent book, Frannie in Pieces, received four starred reviews, was a Book Sense Pick, and was named to the New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list. She is also the author of Big City Eyes, Hanging Up, and How to Eat Like a Child. Her screenwriting credits include The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, You've Got Mail, Bewitched, Hanging Up, and Michael. She lives in New York City with her husband and their dog, Honey Pansy Cornflower Bernice Mambo Kass.
Read an Excerpt
Frannie in Pieces EPB
Do you know what it says on a tube of toothpaste? In small print? You have to read the small print because they never tell you anything scary in large print. Large print is what they want you to see. Here's what the large print says: for best results, squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten as you go up. But the important stuff is small. Tiny. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.
You can die from toothpaste.
I tell my mom this at dinner. Although I'm not eating. I tell her I have a stomachache. Which might be true. My mom says that I don't have to eat, but I do have to sit with them. While stuck there, I focus on things that have no meaning to me, like my stepfather's hair. Jenna and I have discussed Mel's hair and the possibility of putting a hidden camera in the bathroom to record exactly how he gets it to do what it does. I suspect that he wets it and combs it forward so it hangs like strings over his eyes. It's hay colored and not too thick, by the way. Then he parts it on the right, and, with a flip of the comb, swirls it left so it dips over his forehead and swoops up again. Strangely, it retains its comb marks. Jenna thinks gel is involved.
Have you ever noticed, in the movies, when the point is that no one in a family is speaking-not because they're mad at each other, but because, between the kids and the parents, there is zero communication-the family is often silent at the dinner table, with only the sound of forks scraping plates? Well, life at my house is not like that. We have nothing in commonbut my mom won't shut up. Probably because she's laying on a veneer. Veneer, if you look it up in the dictionary, means "a thin surface layer. A façade." Listen to her: "There were fresh anemones today, I suppose they forced them or flew them in from a Central American country because they're at least three weeks early and they cost a complete fortune, I couldn't possibly make a profit on them, but those flowers are beautiful, it's like they have black eyes with long curly lashes, some of the petals are persimmon or colors you'd see only on a fish, and how about that delicate fringy leaf, like each flower is wearing a ruffled collar."
"Toothpaste can kill you," I say.
Now there is silence. I have achieved silence. You see, my mom can talk a streak, but eventually she has to take a breath, and when she does, I'm there.
"What makes you think that?" she asks eventually.
"It says so on the package."
"I bet you'd have to swallow a whole tube," says Mel.
"I'm sure he's right," she chimes in.
"In the Middle Ages they didn't have toothpaste." Mel teaches medieval history. "Queen Elizabeth the First brushed her teeth with pomegranate juice. That's why she never smiled for any of her portraits. She had hardly any teeth left."
"How fascinating," says my mom.
"It doesn't say you'd have to swallow a whole tube. It says, 'If more than used for brushing . . .' That's about two inches."
"I hope you're not going to stop brushing, too."
The "too" refers to my having given up silverware and china. My place setting is now entirely disposable. More on that later.
My father died. He died on March 24th. Two months ago. A week before my birthday. He lived in a house eight blocks away. I always visited him after school on Wednesdays.
"Hey, Dad, it's me."
There was no answer. My dad never forgets that Wednesdays belong to us, but occasionally something comes up and he knows that I know he'll be back. I dumped my parka and my backpack on the couch on top of the magazines. My dad reads-I mean, read-Newsweek and Time, plus a magazine called Fine Woodworking and Condé Nast Traveler, and he always left them lying around. "He lives like a college student," I heard my mom tell her friend Rachel on the telephone. I don't know what Mom meant exactly, but it's not true. Wasn't true. He loves junk. Loved. Great junk. Things other people didn't want. Things sitting on the curb waiting for Thursday.
In Hudson Glen, New York, where we live, Thursday is pick-up-big-garbage day. Which means that on Wednesday evenings my dad and I would go foraging. "We see the beauty, don't we, Frannie?" His couch is bamboo. Someone threw out a perfectly good bamboo couch except for a few gouges in the arms. And his coffee table is an old blue metal trunk with rusted locks. In the corner of the living room stands a stringless guitar, slightly warped. "Look at the shape, Frannie. Look what weather can do." There is a ton of other stuff-a doll's arm, a few large dominoes, a broken radio in green plastic, a cracked clock with the works showing, an old-fashioned black telephone with a circular dial and finger holes. My dad said, "Take away use and you have art." That's a very cool observation, and you should think about it for at least a minute. All the small objects we found dump digging, which is just what it sounds like, tramping through the dump searching for treasure. Everything we collected we appreciate, and I'm sorry to say my mom does not. "One putteth down what one doth not understand." That's not in the Bible, but it should be.
That afternoon the milk carton was sitting on the kitchen counter. Opened. My dad is always forgetting to put things back. I'm like him that way. So I put the milk back in the refrigerator, trying not to look too closely at what was inside. My dad never covers anything. It's like he never heard of Saran wrap, Baggies, or plastic containers. If he eats spaghetti, he pours what's left into a bowl and pops it, topless, into the fridge. Things grow fuzz and turn strange colors.
Frannie in Pieces EPB. Copyright (c) by Delia Ephron . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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