DiscoverContemporary Fiction

Frank the Painter

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Worth reading 😎

Frank the Painter is a social commentary covering much of what's going on in the world today.

Synopsis

Frank the Painter longs for an orderly and predictable life…but, sadly, it is not to be.

Frank the Painter’s great mission is to renovate Cleveland with his Sistine Chapel-inspired garage art. A big distraction, however, is his lust for beautiful Carla Gymboni, the diminutive mob boss of Cuyahoga County—an obsession that has driven him to clandestine acts of stationery crime. But unforeseen events are about to radically change Frank the Painter’s life, providing him with an instant family and a motley crew of unusual acrobatic friends. And in the wake of a violent hometown terror attack, he’ll find himself careening from breakdown to recovery, from Michelangelo to mandalas, from capitalism to crime fighting, in search of truth, ethical purpose, and a spiritual epiphany or two.

Welcome to Frank the Painter’s world—a surreal yet strangely recognizable realm populated by gangsters and goons, villains and vigilante do-gooders, little people, Native Americans, superheroes, circus performers, and a hermaphrodite child who just might be humanity’s best and last hope.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of Frank the Painter. I selected it because it sounded interesting and something a bit different to what I normally read - and it did not disappoint there.


I spent the first part of this book confused and concerned about what I'd picked up. Kaplan writes in so many controversial topics in such a way that at first I wasn't sure if this was hate speech, satire, or normalising. I'm honestly still not 100% sure, but I think we're balanced between satire and normalisation.


Combined with the social commentary of what the world should look like. There are so many poignant lines in Frank the Painter that genuinely stopped me in my readthrough to make me think.


At times, I felt this was a personal essay full of Kaplan's personal beliefs and block paragraphs with political statements - most of which I wholeheartedly agree with.


Frank the Painter is a frustratingly altruistic main character who gets himself into trouble by trying to be good and do good. He is good-natured, yet chaotic, and we learn later why this might be.


The cast of characters around Frank is certainly diverse, ranging from circus performers to mobsters to drug addicts to children. The characters have deep conversations and dangerous interactions with each other that makes for a compelling story that ranges over multiple decades.


The only issue I have with the timescale is that the concept of time is not clearly stated. I wasn't sure if this was all happening in the space of a year or, as was the case, several decades.


Kaplan touches on topics such as sexualising little people, stalking, intersex children, eating dog, adopting Asian children, adultery, mob life, mental illness, idolatry, religion, terrorist attacks, prison, homelessness, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, charity, drug abuse, corrupt governments, and so much more.


I list these out above because you need to know what you're getting into with this book. Frank the Painter's ordinary and predictable life absolutely gets turned upside down, landing him in a world of intrigue, controversy, pain, and realism.


I would recommend this to people interested in current affairs and social commentary. This is not a read for anyone looking for a light-hearted book.


Reviewed by

I'm an avid YA/Fantasy reader who's very, very slowly working on my first novel. I used to read exclusively mystery books and still love them, too!

I write terribly good Harry Potter fanfiction, explore Skyrim, Azeroth, and Northern Ireland, crochet any & everything, & cook epic vegan meals.

Synopsis

Frank the Painter longs for an orderly and predictable life…but, sadly, it is not to be.

Frank the Painter’s great mission is to renovate Cleveland with his Sistine Chapel-inspired garage art. A big distraction, however, is his lust for beautiful Carla Gymboni, the diminutive mob boss of Cuyahoga County—an obsession that has driven him to clandestine acts of stationery crime. But unforeseen events are about to radically change Frank the Painter’s life, providing him with an instant family and a motley crew of unusual acrobatic friends. And in the wake of a violent hometown terror attack, he’ll find himself careening from breakdown to recovery, from Michelangelo to mandalas, from capitalism to crime fighting, in search of truth, ethical purpose, and a spiritual epiphany or two.

Welcome to Frank the Painter’s world—a surreal yet strangely recognizable realm populated by gangsters and goons, villains and vigilante do-gooders, little people, Native Americans, superheroes, circus performers, and a hermaphrodite child who just might be humanity’s best and last hope.

Introduction

Frank the Painter was born in an industrial section of Cleveland. He worked for ten years painting houses. His specialty was painting images resembling the Sistine Chapel on the ceilings of his clients’ garages. Toward the beginning of his career his work was merely tolerated, but he was so thorough and skilled at applying monotones in the other areas of the houses he painted that his customers came to appreciate his penchant for imitating Michelangelo.

One of his customers, who worked part-time as a barista at Starbucks and was an aspiring artist, had hit the jackpot and won the lottery. Marissa Marquez did not know what to do with the million dollars she won. She knew to stop gambling, but she missed burning her meager Starbucks salary on scratch-off tickets. Oddly, the lotto jackpot made her more parsimonious, until she met Frank.

Marissa knew Frank was a good house painter, but she did not like the job he did on her garage. Marissa knew that Frank could improve. She convinced him he had talent. To cultivate that talent, Marissa told Frank he had to travel the world with her.

Frank initially declined Ms. Marquez’s invitation because there was someone else in his life, someone he kept secret. He was stalking a red-headed little person named Carla, who worked for the Department of the Interior. Her job was to monitor inventory and office supplies. Envelopes and ballpoint pens were in high demand and always missing. Frank stole those supplies because he wanted to see Carla. His friend Stanley worked at Graples, the stationery store Carla frequented when she needed to restock. Frank did not break into the commissary often. He thought rightly that he wouldn’t be found out if he applied such a strategy, but he yearned to see Carla, whose head barely reached the counter at Stanley’s shop. Frank would hide in the air ducts when Carla came in and peer at her through the grating. To Frank it was the one thing nicer than smelling fresh paint dry.

Marissa Marquez found out about the spying. She went through the photos on Frank’s phone and found pictures of Carla. She threatened to turn Frank in to the police if he didn’t agree to travel the world with her.

“Ms. Marquez, you don’t understand! Carla is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

“Frank, give it up! She isn’t worth it. Your skills will drastically improve. I can show you the Seven Wonders of the World. Stop wasting your money on paint. Stop hoarding envelopes and pens. You will be severely punished if you don’t abscond to Italy with me!” “Are there midgets in Italy as beautiful as fair Carla?”

“You’ll never know unless you come with me.”

“I have no choice. If you turn me in to the police, I’ll never see Carla again.”

“I am ruthless. You will fulfill your creative potential! I insist on it.”

So Frank gave up stalking the woman he loved, and embarked on a trip around the world with Ms. Marquez.

Frank discovered on their journey that Ms. Marquez had good taste in coffee but smoked too much. The fetid odor of Pall Mall cigarettes surrounded her constantly. On the plane to Italy, Ms. Marquez had an hour-long anxiety attack because she couldn’t smoke.

Frank felt sorry for Ms. Marquez. He knew she appreciated art. He told her he would help her kick cigarettes if she showed him the Far East. He wanted to paint mandalas in garages in Cleveland. His business would thrive if he could corner the market in Asian-themed garage art.

He appreciated the abundance of beauty, architecture, and fine art in Asia. Ms. Marquez bought him calligraphy brushes from Japan and ornate keepsakes of dragons from China. For Frank, Marissa would part with her money. She knew he was going places.

Frank’s trip to Asia with Marissa was epic and memorable. Frank became accustomed to traveling with a woman of means who loved art. Carla became a ghost from the past. He would always cherish his time in the air duct blowing imaginary kisses at Carla, but he and Marissa, as he now allowed himself to call her, made a happy couple.

After disembarking from what ended up being a premarital honeymoon to Asia, Frank immersed himself in painting. The start-up costs of Frank’s mandala-painting business were high because he used the longest-lasting, most colorful paints for his murals. Marissa was good with numbers. She understood Quickbooks and Excel because she had helped her father balance the family checkbook when she was a girl. She applied some corporate marketing trickery learned from her keen observational prowess as a barista, and the business expanded. The new designs caught on when Frank began using spray paint and calligraphy brushes. After a while, every house in Frank’s old industrial neighborhood had a mandala painted on its garage ceiling. The future looked bright for Frank and Marissa.

About the author

Joshua is a former scientist who is enrolled in university seeking a BA in English. He also works as a paralegal part-time. He likes sports, exercise and living a healthy life. He appreciates peculiar worlds and ideas. view profile

Published on October 22, 2020

Published by

60000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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