Richard Ford has written for decades about his alter ego Frank Bascombe. He told Bascombe's story in "The Sportswriter, "Independence Day," and "The Lay of the Land." Each story follows a similar structure. Ford eschews a formal plot for a stream-of-consciousness narrative that follows Frank through a holiday weekend, often narrating a series of loosely-connected events and culminating in a chaos-filled climax.
In "Let Me Be Frank With You," Ford finally acknowledges this looseness. He presents the book as four short stories connected only by the central character - Frank Bascombe.
Here is a summary of each story.
Frank visits the owner of his former house after a devastating storm destroyed the domicile. Although he sold the house years ago, the new owner makes him feel guilty about transferring this financial loss.
Everything Could Be Worse
A woman knocks on Frank's door and reveals a dark secret about his house and its past.
The New Normal
Frank visits his ex-wife, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's and moved into an elderly home. Their relationship is civil, but she lets him know how his inadequacies.
Deaths of Others
Frank reluctantly visits an old acquaintance who is now dying. The friend confesses a betrayal committed years earlier.
Like the previous Bascombe novels, this one takes place around a holiday. In this case, the holiday is Christmas; but little is made of it until the final story.
Frank is 68 years old, retired, and financially secure. He has been remarried for years and has a cordial relationship with his ex-wife. His children have moved away and are reasonably successful. Despite all these successes, he feels the angst of everyday life and pushes down his regrets about the past. In each story, someone reveals a truth, and Frank must grapple with something beyond his control.
As always, Ford allows us to feel for Bascombe by inviting us inside his mind. He appears natural to the reader because his thoughts are reasonable, if not always rational.
The entertaining and thoughtful stories present a plausible progression of Frank's character as he ages.