Finding Flipper Frank by Patrick Garry

Finding Flipper Frank

Reviewed by Rich Stoehr

One of the first things I wondered, before I started reading ‘Finding Flipper Frank,’ was just who (or what) “Flipper Frank” was. Fair warning – if you’re wondering about that, you will find out about it, but it won’t be until about two-thirds of the way in. And by the time you get there, you’ll likely be so involved in the unfolding story that you’ll forget you were looking for it in the first place.

On its most basic level, ‘Finding Flipper Frank‘ is the story of a road trip. Three people, mostly strangers to one another, linked by the need to get from Montana to Baltimore…or thereabouts. On the way, they share the same space and get to know one another. There’s Izzy, an older man full of stories about his youth and more than willing to tell them at any time, whether his audience wants to hear them or not. There’s Moira, a woman in her thirties on her way home, bringing with her an air of optimism and hope in everything she touches. And there’s Walt, our uncertain hero, who mostly listens and doesn’t feel he has much to contribute. Middle-aged, kind of aimless, not sure where he’s coming from or where he’s going, Walt is headed to Baltimore to see Cal Ripken break a baseball record in a game he’s not even sure he wants to be at.

As with any good road trip story, ‘Finding Flipper Frank‘ isn’t really about the destination – it’s what happens along the way. Izzy tells his tales (many of which have a suspiciously tall feeling about them), Moira’s curiosity leads them down some unexpected paths, and even Walt – ever standoffish and distant – starts to come out of his shell. By the time they arrive in Crawfish Bay (Izzy’s destination) and learn the truth about the Blue Point hotel Izzy has been telling them about, they are changed people, grown closer over the course of their journey. As this second act unfolds in Crawfish Bay, what follows is both surprising and, in a way, inevitable.

What I enjoyed most about ‘Finding Flipper Frank‘ is how easy it was to read. The pages slip by as easily as the miles of asphalt under a humming car, carrying me as a willing passenger along for the ride. Garry’s tale is not a complicated one, and his prose follows suit – he writes in an uncomplicated, accessible style that works perfectly for the story he’s spinning. The words bring the story to life easily, getting out of the way and just letting us take it in at our own speed. Though I do often enjoy the craft of writing and wordsmithing, it was refreshing to read a story so simply told, and one that was also so satisfying.

My wife noticed, as I was reading the last pages of ‘Finding Flipper Frank,’ that I was sitting forward in my seat, turning the pages eagerly, completely absorbed in it. It may be an uncomplicated tale, but it’s also an immensely engaging one. The characters are interesting and vibrant, the pacing steady and confident, the ending thoughtful and thought-provoking. This is the kind of book I can recommend to friends easily – and not just to people who like just a particular sort of book, but to almost any reader of good stories.

I’m no longer sure what I expected when I started ‘Finding Flipper Frank.’ It didn’t take me where I expected to go, but I think it went where it needed to go. And that’s just fine by me.

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