Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. 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 Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.
As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
I’m still sorting through this book (which I listened to on audio), but my overall impression is that I really liked it. I loved meeting Frank, and the author’s descriptions of his outfits were fabulous — the book wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful without being able to visualize a child-sized Sherlock Holmes or Groucho Marx. Everything about the story pulled me along, and I so loved how Alice interacted with Frank.
My only real beef with the book is how it ended. It didn’t really feel complete and I’m still trying to figure out Xander’s relationship with Alice. I want to know what happened with … some of the other characters, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Maybe that’s what the author intended, though, which means she achieved her goal.
Overall, I just really enjoyed it. I have a special needs aunt, and I love stories that include those kinds of characters without making them stereotypical or turning them into props. If you enjoyed The Rosie Project, I think you’ll like this book. (Get your copy here.)