Frank, Michael. “The Mighty Franks: A Memoir”, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.
Quite a Family
The Franks are an unusual and eccentric Hollywood family. Michael Frank once overhears his aunt say to his mother when he is a boy that she wished that Michael was her son. Michael’s childless Auntie Hankie and Uncle Irving are screenwriters in a family where brother and sister married sister and brother. The two families live just blocks away from each other in Laurel Canyon. This is a strangely intertwined family in which even the author’s two grandmothers share an apartment together.
Aunt Hankie took charge of Michael’s education and she was the kind of aunt that everyone dreams of having—smart, talented, loving and wealthy. She showed Michael what to read, which artists and houses to admire and which people who should respect and love. She trained him well but never thought that he would have liked to discover things on his own.
From the moment I began reading, I found myself pulled into a family like no other. Auntie Hankie is an antihero who is not only narcissistic but feral. She is a character that is not soon forgotten. She is also talented and seems to have money to burn. She
takes charge of Michael’s education and shows him which books to read, which painters to admire, which houses to like, which people to adore. In other words, she trains him in the finer things of life.
However, that doesn’t last forever and when he moods begin to change and become dark, we see that she is not what she appears to be and beneath her loving exterior is rage that can become dangerous at times. In fact, she goes so far as to almost totally devastate Michael and he is forced to rebuild himself almost from scratch. Michael tries to find a way to reconcile himself to the woman he once loved and cherished and to the troubled person she becomes. As we read, we ask ourselves about the boundaries of family and who should make the decisions about what a family should be.
Make sure you clear your day before you start to read because you will not be able to stop once you do. It is impossible not to see the honesty in this narrative and you will be turning pages as fast as possible to see what comes next.