Comments & Reviews

“Let me put this right here, right now: Michael Frank’s tone of writing is sharp, emphatic, and elegant, with anger smoldering just below the surface, so the story is never brought to a halt; it constantly threatens to explode like a pressure cooker…. Aunt Hankie is marvelous company, for Michael and for us as readers.  A woman as far removed as can be from clichéd depictions of ‘a terrible woman’, she is much more many-faceted in her alluring, narcissistic, and at the same time loving and demanding personality. She is a woman who reminds you of Thorkild Bjornvig’s descriptions of Karen Blixen in his book The Pact: My Friendship with Karen Blixen.  Harriet Frank is the seductive teacher who is capable of opening doors to worlds that are marvelous to such a degree that Michael Frank feels blessed for having the opportunity to be let in. Literature, architecture, art and movies, of course. But at the same time she is the witch who constantly tries to wedge a distance between the boy Michael and his parents. Slowly she drags her nephew into her game of love and excommunication, artistic ambition and loyalty….The result is a joyously gruesome read”—from Thorkil Jacobsen’s review in Denmark’s Berlingske

The Mighty Franks reminds us of the fact that the truth about a human being is a story that is never told exhaustively…. [The author] rewinds his own childhood and redefines his own identity, and as a reader you go on a parallel journey, rewinding through your own life….The book is at once gruesome, highly readable, and told in scintillating, stylishly written language—equally stylishly translated by Karsten Nielsen.  Michael Frank…digs deep in his own personal history to form the narrative of a family that is so full of drama that you will find it hard to believe—unless you have a family yourself”—from Denmark’s Kristeligt Dagblad

“You can only agree with Franzen: The Mighty Franks is brilliant.  Memoir, psychological drama and coming of age story all in one … Michael Frank is an amazing storyteller and his memoirs are beautifully told”—from the five-star review in Denmark’s  Børsen 

The Mighty Franks is named one of the 50 best books of 2017 by The Telegraph.  

“It was so good that I had to read it twice”: The New Statesman names The Mighty Franks one of the 2017 books of the year.

Asked by The Guardian which book he most often gives as a gift these days, Jonathan Franzen answered, “Lately it has been Michael Frank’s brilliant and recently published memoir, The Mighty Franks.

—from “Jonathan Franzen: The Books That Made Me.” Read the full conversation here

Frank “seems to have had an unearthly quality of perspective…There is a lastingly sane quality to his riveting memoir that’s reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird….an extraordinary tale.”

—from Gaby Wood’s five-star review in The Daily Telegraph.  Read the full review here or as reprinted in The Irish Independent

“Frank is a master of self-reflection, under the bowl of blue sky and in those closeted canyons.  He says nothing in an ordinary way; everything has a dreamlike smoothness, born out of his extended act of retrieval and the remembered violence of emotion and inconstancy….I doubt you’ll read a better memoir this year.  The Mighty Franks is full of humour and brittle irony.”

—Philip Hoare, The Guardian Read the full review

“Michael Frank’s [memoir] may be the first to expose narrative abuse. In The Mighty Franks, he recalls being imprinted for life by a pair of Los Angeles ‘sorcerers’, verbal enchanters who immured him within a fairy-tale world…Witty, moving…beautifully written and timely.”

—Michael Saler, TLS Read the full review

“A narrative that could unfold only in a place where fantasy and reality blur with treacherous ease….The author connects the dots subtly between his relatives’ capacity for self-invention and their employment in the dream factory….[A] probing and radiantly polished account.”

—Peter Haldeman, The New York Times Read the full review

“A marvelous, clear-eyed memoir….almost thriller-like….beautifully written.”

—Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal Read the full review

“Frank brings Proustian acuity and razor-sharp prose to family dramas as primal, and eccentrically insular, as they come.”

—Ann Hulbert, The Atlantic Read the full review

“Acutely perceptive…[Frank] performs such an incisively intimate autopsy on his clan’s psyche that the result comes close to being an exorcism,  a perfectly balanced near-gothic blend of the fascinating and the horrifying.”

—Susan Wloszczyna, The Buffalo News Read the full review

“This is an altogether charming portrait of a close, if unusual, Hollywood family, written with exceptionally precise language from the point of view of the skilled wordsmith Michael Frank. His narration is personal, unique, and exceedingly warm. The texture of his words and the quality of his performance are so rich that the audiobook seems like fiction, though the work is not a novel.”

—from a review of The Mighty Franks audiobook in AudioFile Magazine.  Read the full review here

“Poignant resonance…[a] beautifully written family portrait.”

—The National Book Review, listing The Mighty Franks as one of its Five Hot Books.  Details here

“A superb memoir.”

—The Telegraph, in naming The Mighty Franks one of the 70 best books to read this summer.  See the full list here

“This searing memoir…is a white-hot snapshot of being seduced then brutalized by arrogance, entitlement and manipulation.”

—Martin Rubin, The Washington Times Read the full review

“Writer Michael Frank is a brave man.  His memoir, The Mighty Franks, paints an excoriating portrait…extraordinary…powerful, eloquent.”

—Linda Harris, New Zealand Listener Read the full review

“I gobbled up this deliciously dark, profoundly poignant memoir in two half-days. The Mighty Franks is Hollywood gothic, complete with distorted families, claustrophobic passions, silver-screen glamour (sometimes borrowed, sometimes earned), submerged hurt erupting from poison tongues, and confected narratives.”

Jo Case, Readings Monthly Australia Read the full review

“Immediate, gut-wrenching…deeply involving.”

—Shelf Awareness Read the full review

“Extraordinary….More than a memoir, this is really a study of human pathology, a book that should be widely read for its insights into families and the process of growing up.”

Library Journal Read the full (starred) review

“In thoughtful, fluid prose, [Frank] evokes the magic and sophistication of a vanished Hollywood intelligentsia schooled in the language of cinema. Readers will be enthralled.”

—Publishers Weekly Read the full review

“A dramatic and often moving portrait of a woman who seemed to be one person until she revealed herself to be someone else entirely, this is one of those memoirs that simultaneously fascinates as it makes us uncomfortable….Should I be averting my eyes? Maybe, but I can’t because I want to know what startling secrets will be revealed next.”


The Mighty Franks is a tremendously smart and beautiful portrait of one of the most interesting and memorable families I’ve encountered. Crackling with sorrow and wit, Michael Frank’s gorgeous, moving and intensely compassionate memoir will stay with me for a long, long time. An astonishing book.”

—Molly Antopol

“An utterly magical book.  Michael Frank inherits Truman Capote’s glorious ability to recreate the past in an act of exquisite, knowing retrieval. Set on the glamorous, conflicted fringes of 20th century Hollywood, Frank’s memoir is a glittering, happy-sad evocation of his elegant, tyrannical, stylish aunt and the rest of his extraordinary family. I hung on every word, spying through his child’s eyes. This is intense and lyrical prose: I never wanted it to stop.”

—Philip Hoare

The Mighty Franks is very easy to love and very hard to put down.  It is a terrific portrait of Los Angeles at a particular time for all of us who ever fantasized about growing up with pools, palm trees, and, yes, even the occasional star.  Moving, wonderfully written, and marvelously drawn, it is filled with characters who love you, hug you, drive you crazy, and sometimes make you cry.”

—George Hodgman

“This is one complicated family.  How do any of us survive our families?  The how of The Mighty Franks is beautiful, tender, forgiving, funny, and fiercely honest.  Michael Frank’s book will certainly join the canon of classic memoirs.  I adored it.”

—Maira Kalman

“An astonishing story of a relationship and a family that ends up the wrong side up and inside-out. Beautiful, strange and true.”

—Ian Sansom

“Be careful when you start reading The Mighty Franks since you won’t be able to stop. As finely drawn as it is acutely observed—painful, honest, evocative, spare—this portrait of an extraordinary family is a work of art.”

—Jean Strouse

“To paraphrase Tolstoy, interesting families are unhappy in mysterious ways, and in this subtle memoir full of hard-won wisdom, Michael Frank gives us an indelible portrait of his own. His imperious, beautiful, infuriating Aunt Hankie, in particular, is one of the great Difficult Women of contemporary literature.”

—Judith Thurman