Robbins, Eden. When Franny Stands Up. Sourcebooks Landmark, 2022. 400 pp. ISBN 978-1728256009 $16.99
I am a huge fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. HUGE. By 20 pages in, this felt at first like a disappointing rip-off in a magical realism/urban fantasy setting. Like Midge, Franny is Jewish, uncensored, has a posturing lesbian mentor, and her idol, the infamous Boopsie Baxter, is a takeoff on Moms Mobley. Unlike Midge, Franny doesn’t have a husband or ex, but she does rails against some of the same 1950s era women’s rights issues in terms of labor and cultural expectations. This speculative fiction novel, grounded in a post WWII Jewish setting, quickly hits its stride.
Franny, in her late teens, escapes downtown in 1940s Manhattan to catch Boopsie’s act. Intrigued by an interview in which the comedianne talked about the IT quality that kills in the business that the paper doesn’t name, Franny sets out to discover just what a “Showstopper” is.
Fast forward a few years, and after an unsavory incident with her best friend’s brother in a back of car, Franny is so traumatized at being made to dance with him at wedding that she runs out, lands at a comedy club, and heckles until she’s tossed out (very similar to Midge’s showing up in her negligee after her husband asks for a divorce). One thing leads to another and soon she has been taken under the wing of a group of (possibly lesbian) stand up comics, trying to break into a career.
The food, slang, fashions and hairstyles of the WWII era add so much to the setting, and the writing is dreamy. The process of joke writing as emotional and physical catharsis for trauma is compelling and I cheered when Franny found her voice, took risks, defied convention and her parents, and spoke her truth. The novel addresses redlining, anti-Semitism, feminism, and family alongside the War.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #FrannyStandsUp from #NetGalley.