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WINNER OF THE 2018 JG-WINGATE PRIZE
A psychologically acute memoir about an unusual Hollywood family by Michael Frank, who "brings Proustian acuity and razor-sharp prose to family dramas as primal, and eccentrically insular, as they come" (The Atlantic)
“My feeling for Mike is something out of the ordi - nary,” Michael Frank overhears his aunt telling his mother when he is a boy of eight. “It’s stronger than I am. I cannot explain it . . . I love him beyond life itself.” With this indelible bit of eavesdropping, we fall into the spellbinding world of The Mighty Franks.
The family is uncommonly close: Michael’s childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving, glamorous Hollywood screenwriters, are doubly related Hankie is his father’s sister, and Irving is his mother’s brother. The two families live near each other in Laurel Canyon. In this strangely intertwined world, even the author’s grandmotherswho dislike each othershare a nearby apartment.
Strangest of all is the way Auntie Hankie, with her extravagant personality, comes to bend the wider family to her will. Talented, mercurial, and lavish with her love, she divides Michael from his parents and his two younger brothers as she takes charge of his education, guiding him to the right books to read (Proust, not Zola), the right painters to admire (Matisse, not Pollock), the right architectural styles to embrace (period, not modernor mo-derne, as she pronounces the word, with palpable disdain). She trains his mind and his eyeuntil that eye begins to see on its own. When this “son” Hankie longs for grows up and begins to turn away from her, her moods darken, and a series of shattering scenes compel Michael to reconstruct both himself and his family narrative as he tries to reconcile the woman he once adored with the troubled figure he discovers her to be.
In its portrayal of this fascinating, singularly polarizing figure, the boy in her thrall, and the man that boy becomes, The Mighty Franks will speak to any reader who has ever struggled to find an independent voice amid the turbulence of family life.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Michael Frank’s essays, articles, and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Slate, The Yale Review, Salmagundi, and Tablet, among other publications. His fiction has been presented at Symphony Space’s Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story, and his travel writing has been collected in Italy: The Best Travel Writing from The New York Times. He served as a Contributing Writer to the Los Angeles Times Book Review for nearly ten years. He lives with his family in New York City and Liguria, Italy.
Table of Contents
1 The Apartment 7
2 Ogden, Continued 45
3 On Greenvalley Road 61
4 Safe House 81
5 My Um-le's Closet (in My Aunt's House) 103
6 Off the Hill 143
7 Five Places, Six Scenes 187
8 Last Room 247
9 Goodbye to the Closet 271
10 Fall and Decline 283
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I felt that this book was terribly unfair to the author’s aunt and uncle. The memoir is about his troubled relationship with the two and provides a derogatory portrayal of them, especially his aunt. As I read, I knew I was hearing only one side of a messy family rift, and his aunt and uncle are no longer able to give their side or defend themselves from this attack. I also found the author’s extensive use of direct quotes in providing dialogue to not be credible; memory is faulty and no one can remember literally verbatim entire conversations they had years earlier. Finally, the private information he discloses about his aunt and uncle are a real invasion of their privacy and dignity.