Saturday, September 28, 2019

Athlete with a Meniscus Root Repair? This One's For You :)

Hey there, reader/runner friends!  I know, it's 2 years?  3?  Since I last blogged.  However, I have done a lot of Instagramming since then over at @thewellreadrunner, and if you've followed me at all, you know that my running was sidelined this year because of a running injury (which eventually ended up being diagnosed as a meniscus root tear in my left knee and had to be surgically repaired).  WHOMP WHOMP.

I started tagging some of my recovery pictures with a #meniscusrootrepair tag on IG, and OMG the responses!!  I got so many DMs from people who were going through the same injury, but had no idea what to expect, because it was hard to find information online about the recovery process.  To which I say, SAME, PEEPS, SAME.  I was really nervous going into this because I was having a heck of a time finding real-person stories of how they recovered from this injury and surgery (especially athletes).

As a result, I decided to write a blog post that outlines what my injury, diagnosis, and recovery timeline was like.  Please keep in mind this is just ONE person's experience.  But I hope it is helpful for anyone else going down a similar path!

Okay, so, we start in...

My last significantly big race was Chicago Marathon in October 2018; I had mostly been maintaining fitness since then, in hopes of a big half marathon & triathlon training season in the winter/spring.  However, I started having some knee pain in early January.  I thought it was possibly IT band related; began foam rolling more, stretching better, etc.  It was nagging but not unbearable.  UNTIL January 30th, when I got off the treadmill after an easy 4 miler and immediately called my chiropractor.  The pain had ramped up bad during the run, and I knew I'd reached a point where I shouldn't continue running on it.

I started seeing my chiropractor, who did a wonderful job working me through some muscle strains during marathon training the previous year.  The first thing she did was check for signs of ACL or meniscus tears, and she ruled those out.  (I kept hearing over and over, ALL THE WAY UNTIL SURGERY, that my injury did not present as a meniscus tear.)  We treated with ART & stim therapy in the office, and I stuck to only cross-training (cycling & swimming) in between.  Running and anything with a jumping motion was very aggravating to my knee.

February 23 I tried a small 1 mile run.  My knee was sore during but I felt like it had improved.  Sadly, that was untrue, and I paid for it with extra pain and swelling in the days afterwards.  At this point, my chiro recommended seeing a sports orthopedist.

MARCH 2019
March 8: got in to see the orthopedist, who I will say is A-MA-ZING (Dr. Mike Maloney out of Strong in Rochester NY).  If you live in this area, I cannot recommend him enough for sports ortho problems.  At this appointment, he checked out my knee and ruled out ACL tear, but said possible meniscus tear, MRI needed to be sure.  Recommended continued cross-training as long as it didn't aggravate the knee.  (Cycling & swimming still felt fine, so I kept at those pretty hard during this whole period.)

March 18: MRI on the knee.

APRIL 2019
April 1: got in with the ortho to go over the results of the MRI.  Honestly, he seemed a little perplexed; the pics did not show a full meniscus tear, though there was definitely some degeneration.  There was a significant cyst in the knee, but not in an area that he felt would be causing such pain.  Based on all this, we decided to take the conservative approach and try a cortisone shot (he did it right in the office).  He said I could try a very small, slow run at the end of the week if the shot seemed to be managing the pain well.

April 6: After an amazing pain-free week, I went for that run!  I walked a quarter mile from my house, started a slow jog, and within 10 seconds heard/felt a SNAP in my knee (BARF).  Could not weight-bear/walk and had to call my husband to drive the QUARTER MILE to come get me!

At this point I was freaking out because we were leaving for Disney April 13 (requiring a WHOLE WEEK of heavy walking), and I couldn't get in to see the ortho again until May 6.  Thankfully, the pain/swelling in my knee died down after a couple of days, and I was able to walk normally again by the time of our vacation.  But running was most definitely a no-go and I knew something real bad happened on that tiny run I took.

MAY 2019
May 6: Back to the ortho.  He said based on my experience with the snapping sound/feeling, we could do another MRI to officially diagnose, but he felt confident just doing an orthoscopic surgery at this point to get into the knee, officially see what the problem was, and fix it.  I was totally on board with that plan; I was SO VERY READY for all this to be over.  Surgery was scheduled for June 5 and I cross-training religiously right up until the day before the procedure.

JUNE 2019
June 5: When I went in for surgery (outpatient procedure), Dr. Maloney said he was likely going to have to either do a meniscectomy (remove damage parts of the meniscus) or a meniscus repair (stitch the broken pieces back together).  Meniscectomies are not as good for you in the long run (higher chance of arthritis in the knee), but they have a much shorter recovery time.  Meniscus repairs are better because you get to keep the whole meniscus, but have a much longer recovery time.  Maloney felt that it was likely I'd end up with a meniscectomy, because they are more common (it's hard to get enough blood flow to the meniscus for a repair to properly heal), which means I would wake up with an ace bandage on my leg and be on the road to getting off crutches within a few days.

So imagine my drug-induced surprise when I woke up from surgery in an ace bandage...aaaaand a giant straight-leg brace that went from thigh to ankle.  I had a feeling I'd gotten a repair done instead of a removal, and was quickly told that was the case.  This meant:
-No weight bearing/must be on crutches for 6 weeks
-Straight leg brace/no knee bending for 4-6 weeks
-total recovery time of approximately 6 months (full return to running)
This was not amazing news, BUT I was thankful to have my whole meniscus back intact, and was happy to just have this whole injury finally taken care of.
In recovery and very high on painkillers. lol.
June 7: My first PT appointment was only 48 hours after surgery!  Despite all my movement restrictions, they wanted to get me building quad strength again ASAP.  It is insane how quickly your muscles atrophy after a surgery, and knowing that I wanted to get back to running, the doctors were quick to get me on a PT plan.  My PT did immediately point out that my muscle tone was fantastic, and credited that to all the cross-training I did during injury.  So all those cycling & swimming miles were NOT for nothing!!!  I can't recommend that enough!!

After this first appointment, I was put on a schedule of PT 2x/week in the office, plus 4x/day at home.  I felt like my whole day was based around when I had to do PT next!  But I was fanatical about doing all my assigned exercises, and again--I cannot recommend that enough.  Stay on top of your PT if you want to return to activity safely & with max strength!!

General post-surgery stuff: showering was awful, I had to borrow a shower seat from a neighbor because standing on 1 leg to shower was near-impossible...not to mention I wasn't supposed to let water directly hit the incisions for a few weeks.  Stairs were a gigantic pain in the ass, and I mostly slept on the living room couch for the first 3-4 weeks.  The pain was rough the first few days after surgery, but improved quickly afterwards...the worst part of the first few weeks was trying to sleep in that god-awful leg brace.  OMG.  Never again!
My view for most of June
June 25: Almost 3 weeks post-op I had my follow-up with the ortho.  This is when I found out this wasn't just a normal mensicus repair, but a ROOT repair.  I had no idea that was even a thing.  But it was explained to me that once they identified it as a root tear, they had to repair it (not remove it) or else long-term problems would have been definite...arthritis, instability, etc.  Root repairs also require even more cautious recovery, since bending at/beyond 90 degrees too soon can put a ton of pressure on the repair.

At this appointment I was given the green light to start bearing 1/3 of my body weight...still on crutches and in the brace though.  At this point I was also cut back to 1x/week PT in the office (but still 2x/day at home).

June 30: I got overconfident on my crutches and fell down the stairs in our house.  Second floor to first floor...the WHOOOOLE flight.  I was also a dummy and did not have my leg brace on at the time (again, overconfident, especially when around the house).  Somehow, I landed at the bottom without bending/injuring my bad leg, though I did go to the ER to check for concussion (thankfully none) and the whole right side of my body was bruised for weeks afterwards.

Needless to say, I do not recommend doing this.  Learn from me.  I definitely got lucky, oy.
ER visits for falling down stairs are not recommended PT
JULY 2019
July 2: PT gave me the go-ahead to start 50% weight bearing...still in brace and on crutches.  (4 weeks post-op)

July 9: My PT allowed me to remove the leg brace!!!  She said my quad strength was looking amazing (DO YOUR PT EXERCISES, PEOPLE!), so she felt comfortable with me taking it off and starting to bend my leg slightly while walking.  I could also move up to 75% weight bearing, and start attempting a few small steps without crutches in a few days.  This was a BIG DAY!  (5 weeks post-op)

July 14: Started taking my first steps without crutches, only around the house.  Still kept the crutches when going out.  (Almost 6 weeks post-op)

July 17: Crutches officially gone!  PT put me on the stationary bike starting this week.  The first couple times, I couldn't get my leg to do a whole rotation (had to just swing it back and forth because my knee wouldn't bend that hard).  But within a few days I was able to do full rotations and do up to 8 minutes at a time on the bike, with zero resistance.  She also had me start doing mini-squats (like, very small, no where near 90 degrees yet).  (6 weeks post-op)

July 30: I started feeling comfortable walking, and started going for (slow) walks outside (max 1-1.5 miles at a time).  PT started me on single-leg strengthening and balance exercises.  I was specifically told no swimming yet at this point, but could continue walking & no-resistance cycling.  8 weeks post-op at this point.

By this point, my walks were getting up to 2-3 miles at a time.  My PT was still seeing me weekly, and initially said she thought we'd start my return-to-run testing around late September.  Again, I continued to be religious about my PT exercises at home.  This was very time consuming (it could take me an hour or more to finish it all, if you include the exercises plus limited cardio work) but paid off for sure because...

August 27: I WENT FOR MY FIRST RUN!!  12 weeks post-op, and way sooner than anticipated!!  But my PT surprised me by doing my return-to-run testing at this appointment, and I passed, so she let me do two 1-minute jogs on the treadmill.  It felt hella strange (I hadn't run since January!!!), and my knee was sore/stiff when I started, but loosened up as I went.  After this appointment, I was not allowed to start running at home yet; I had to wait until my next appointment but monitor my knee for any increased swelling/pain in the meantime.  Thankfully, I didn't experience much (some soreness/swelling the next day, but it decreased quickly).

September 3: Officially got the go-ahead to start the return-to-run progression program from my PT.  OH HAPPY DAY!!!!  13 weeks post-op: so much sooner than originally expected (I was told 4-6 months until running would be introduced).  All of this gets chalked up to keeping myself in shape with cross-training during injury, and being on top of my physical therapy after surgery.  I know I've said that a million times already, but I'm damn proud of it and can't recommend it enough!!

The return-to-run program gives me a set of steps to follow as I build mileage and endurance on my knee again.  Every time I do a run, I have to take 2-3 rest days in between before I do the next step in the progression.

To give you an idea of how it started, the first workout was:
Walk to .07 miles
Jog to .14 miles
Walk to .21 miles
Jog to .28 miles
Walk to .48 miles
Jog to .61 miles
Walk to .74 miles
Jog to .87 miles
Walk to 1.00 miles

So when I say baby steps, I mean we are taking BABY.STEPS.  But again, I followed this to the letter.  My PT also cut my appointments back to once every 2 weeks now, and I only have to do my PT exercises at home 3x/week.

I am up to step 7 of the run program as of this writing (9/28), and today my run was:
Slow jog to .13
Jog to .38
Slow jog to .51
Jog to .76
Slow jog to .89
Jog to 1.14
Slow jog to 1.52
Jog to 1.77
Slow jog to 1.90
Jog to 2.15
Slow jog to 2.28
Jog to 2.53
Slow jog to 2.66
Jog to 2.91
Slow jog to 3.16 miles

I'm up to 5K now, no walk breaks!  I feel no knee pain after my runs.  The only thing I've had to watch for is calf/hamstring tightness; those muscle groups are having a harder time adapting back to running, but I've found that extra foam-rolling and rest brings a lot of improvement.  It gets easier with every run.  Now, I'm planning to run an easy 5K with my 5-year-old this December, and I have confidence that I'll be on track to run the half marathon I deferred in May 2020.  :)

So that's that, peeps!  I hope this answered some questions that other athletes may have going into an injury and/or surgery of this nature.  I know a blog post like this would have eased my mind a lot beforehand.  A meniscus repair is NOT like a meniscectomy, and a root repair is its own beast as well.  I know this isn't affecting a huge population of athletes, but if at least one gets some solid info from this, I feel good about it!

Feel free to hit me with comments and questions below (or on my IG)...happy running!

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Reading Updates!

Hey there, readers!  As you can probably tell, I've felt rather uninspired on the blogging front lately.  Not many (or any?) reviews churning out these days.  However, rest assured that I have been reading vigorously!  And I'll be honest, it's been rather refreshing to read without the need for reviewing afterwards.

Even though I'm not blogging about my books as much, I still have big plans for reading in 2017!
First and foremost, I am working my way through the Book Riot Read Harder 2017 challenge.   If you haven't heard of the challenge, there are 24 different types of books that you're supposed to try to read throughout the year.  The categories are meant to push you outside of your usual reading comfort zone. I was fortunate to connect with Sarah over at Sarah Says Read, who is also a book blogger from Rochester (Western NY represent!).  She and some other local readers have created a Rochester-based book-club-type-group (it's all rather fluid right now) based around the challenge. Sarah & co have split the 24 categories into 2 per month, and we are getting together monthly to discuss.  Our first meetup was a lovely 2-hour brunch in January, and we had a bookish good time.  :)  Looking forward to more of this throughout the year!

Second, I am really hoping to read off my shelves...again.  You know, because I say that every single year, and somehow it never happens?  I'm off to a rollicking start, as I've already read 3 library books this year, and have another 3 books out from the library as we speak.  SUPER.  This resolution is full of good intentions but sure to fail, let's just be honest.

Third, I want to attack some of the books on my 30 Before 35 list--no, I haven't forgotten about it!  How is it that I am only like 1.5 years from the deadline for this?  TIME FREAKIN' FLIES.

Fourth, I am making an attempt to read more books about social justice and the political process.  For obvious reasons that we will not discuss in this sunshine-and-rainbows space.  So please, send me all the recommendations you have.  I most recently enjoyed The Democrats: A Critical History by Lance Selfa and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I am on the waiting list for Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit.  Must arm my brain with knowledge in order to do battle for the next 4 years.  RAWR.
Oh, and fifth: more running books.  YES!  This will be the year of my first marathon (it will not escape me this time), and I am reading books to match it.  I already devoured How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald, which totally amped me up for marathon training.  I can't wait to delve into more reads like that one.

Wow, 5 very big reading goals makes 365 days feel like no time at all.  Ah well...if you're gonna do it, overdo it.  Right?

What are you reading so far this year??  Get me up to date, reader friends!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

I am fully aware that I have not been the best blogger lately, but I just love making my end-of-the-year best-books list, so I had to throw in my two cents before 2017 rolls around!

As in past years, this list is in no particular order:

1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I lied, this part of the list is definitely in a particular order, because this was absolutely the best book I read all year.

2. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Many would write this off as "chick lit", but I found it very thought-provoking.

3. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Villians and intrigue and spectacular writing.

4. Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock

ALL THE SADNESS.  But I loved it anyway.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

More sadness!  Like seriously, so much sadness.  But SO SO GOOD.  Can't wait to see the movie and cry my eyes out.

6. Run the World by Becky Wade

I read a lot of running books this year, but this is the one that stuck with me the most.  I love Wade's fresh perspective and diverse discussion of the world of running.

7. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

In a literary world full of WWII stories (not to be trite, but that's true), this one is a stand out.  The dialogue alone is reason to pick it up.

8. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

What would my best-of list be without the latest Picoult release?  Pointless, that's what.  But seriously, this has to be the most immediately socially relevant book she has ever written.

9. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

This book reminded me why I really, really need to read more Ann Patchett.

10. Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco

As an amateur yogi, my perspective of the practice was completely changed by this book (for the better!).  I learned so much from it, and I know I will refer to it for years to come.

That's a wrap!   What made YOUR best-read list for 2016?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb

Title:   I'll Take You There
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: copy received  from  TLC Book Tours in exchange  for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

I’ll Take You There  centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for  New York Magazine  who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

My Review:

It's no secret that I am a huge Wally Lamb fan, and have been for some time.  As mentioned in previous reviews of his work, he sets all of his fiction in and around the not-so-fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut.  I say "not-so-fictional" because if you're a southeastern CT native (like me!), you can see that Three Rivers mirrors Norwich, CT rather closely (and Three Rivers is the name of the community college in that town).  Anyway, I always get a kick out of seeing familiar landmarks in Lamb's writing, and that paired with his talent for crafting intense family dramas has made me a long-time Lamb fan.

So, here comes his new release!  And of course I'm all over it.  To be honest, didn't even really read the description that closely.  Wally Lamb is just one of those authors where I know when I see his name on a cover, I want to read it.

In the end, I found this novel to be quite different from his other fiction work.  A few points of difference were obvious early on: this novel is quite a bit shorter than his others, so the prose is a bit more succinct, the characters less fleshed out.  Also, ghosts.  There are ghosts in this book.  Totally was not expecting the supernatural element (my fault, like I said...I should have read the description!).  While it wasn't my favorite thing about the novel, I did appreciate how Lamb used the ghosts to teach readers about an often-forgotten segment of Hollywood's history (that of its early female directors).  Even beyond the ghosts, there is quite a bit of thought-provoking history woven into this novel, and that was one of its biggest strengths.

However, the biggest difference between this book and Lamb's others, for me, was its lack of subtlety.  This is not a novel that encourages you to think very hard, which was a big disappointment for me as a reader.  The overarching themes of the novel (women's rights, feminism, etc) are hammered so hard, I had a headache by page 10.  I'm not saying that these themes aren't relevant and important (hi, talking to you, President-Elect), but I wish they had been allowed to flower within the prose more naturally.  Instead, because the novel was so much shorter than Lamb's others, I quickly wondered if that meant he had to do away with the thoughtful, more drawn-out narrative that fans of his work are likely used to, and instead fell back on this more directive writing to make sure his points got across.

Overall, this was an enlightening read, and Lamb proves that he still has his flair for historic detail and convoluted family relationships.  However, I have to admit that it's likely my least favorite of his fiction works thus far.  For me, that still means 3 stars on Goodreads though!  This may work for someone who wants to try a Lamb novel but is not ready for one of his longer tomes.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I Was Reading When I Wasn't Here (and, Hi!)

And Lord knows it's been a while since I've been here!

Sorry for the protracted absence, reader friends.  I told ya this was likely to happen though, what with me in school, and child in school, and toddler in full force, and making time for me + husband, and running, and this freaking election (don't even get me started), and just EVERYTHING.  All the things.  There are too many things.  So yes, I have been absent.

However, I have been reading!  I just haven't been blogging about it!  Which has been weird (since I've blogged about EVERY book I read between August 2012 and...6 weeks ago), but also very liberating.  I just fly through books when I have the time, and don't worry about how I will review them.  It's rather wonderful, in fact, even though I know that doesn't bode real well for the blog...though I'm still staunchly NOT shutting it down, for whatever that's worth.

Anyway, instead of full-on reviews, I thought I would highlight the best of what I've read lately, in a very short and sweet let you know about the one book I've been reading forever, but have yet to DNF.

The Best of What I've Read Lately (with exceedingly short descriptions):

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


The Mothers by Brit Bennett

New release by a debut author, the hype in the blogosphere was justified.  Plus, I like pretty things, and the cover is a very pretty thing.

In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, both by Ruth Ware

Mystery and debauchery!  Lots of red herrings!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (my first Christie!)

The queen of Mystery and Debauchery and Red Herrings!  I was not disappointed.

Why I Run by Mark Sutcliffe

Runners need to read this one.  It helped me get out of a running slump and pushed me to sign up for a marathon (again).  More on that in another post...

And...The Book I Have Been Reading Forever:

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

I dunno guys.  I am starting to think this series is not for me.  Been at this since August?  September?  I still have 300 pages to go.  Determined to do it, but it might be a while before I think about picking up the third installment.

So, readers, catch me up...what are you reading lately?  Have you read any of the books I listed above?  What should be next on my ever-expanding TBR list?

Also, send Joe Biden memes.  All the Joe Biden memes.  #UncleJoe

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Brady Bunch Gone Bad in Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Title:   Commonwealth
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: copy received  from  TLC Book Tours in exchange  for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades,  Commonwealth  explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

My Review:

Add it to the "best of 2016" list!  Commonwealth left me enthralled from page 1.  If you've enjoyed Ann Patchett's books in the past (Bel Canto left an impression on me, making her newest novel sound all the more attractive), or if you just love a good family saga, this is your next read.

The family structure here is a bit more complex than "Brady Bunch gone bad," but I couldn't help thinking of America's favorite blended family as I read about the Keating/Cousins kids, who are pretty much the antithesis of the beloved Bradys.  The fateful christening party mentioned in the book's description is the dynamite that blows this family in so many different directions.  Patchett shows you this initial explosion, and then gives you a glimpse of how this affected each member of the family over the subsequent decades.  The story is rich with regrets and guilt that will leave you wondering--what would have happened if Bert and Beverly never met on that first day?  Would it have been for the better, or the worse?

If I had to pick one thing that makes this novel stand out, it's the fluidity as Patchett transitions between characters.  There are SO many family members in the Keating/Cousins clan that it does, admittedly, get confusing at times.  However, this made it all the more impressive that the narrative was able to move from one person to the next without requiring a designated chapter for each character (or even a page break, in many cases).  The story lasts just long enough with each family member that your interest never falters, and you end up with a captivating drama that spans generations.

I can't express enough goodness about this book!  Five stars, must read, go go go.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Title:   Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: copy received via a giveaway at Book Hooked Blog--I was then asked for an honest review through HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

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.

When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?

Full of countless only-in-Hollywood moments,  Be Frank With Me  is a heartwarming story of a mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who is pulled into their unforgettable world.

My Review:

I went into this book without knowing very much (thanks to my penchant for not often reading full book descriptions), but it made the blog rounds rather favorably when the hardcover came out.  I kept it on my radar, then won a copy from Julie at Book Hooked, and was prompted to move it up my to-read list when TLC ran it on tour.  I am so glad that I kicked myself into reading it sooner rather than later.  This is such a fun gem of a book, and certainly a standout debut for Johnson.

The eponymous protagonist of the novel, Frank, is absolutely the best element of this story.  While he is never given any sort of official diagnosis, I made the conjecture that Frank is somewhere on the autism spectrum.  Alice, the narrator, has quite a job ahead of her when she is thrown into Frank's rigidly-ruled world.  However, despite his penchant for monotone diatribes and precise ways of doing things, Frank comes with his own brand of humor that is made even better by his relationship with Alice.  Watching the two of them grow together in the book is both entertaining and heartwarming.

Johnson has managed to bring the perfect mix to this novel: it's emotional, yet fun.  Wise, yet lighthearted.  I haven't read anything quite like it.  If you're looking for a swift-moving story with unique characters that has a little bit of everything, Be Frank With Me is a sure bet.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

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