Abby Bardi The Book of Fred: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743411943

The Book of Fred: A Novel

3.7 avg rating
( 736 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780743411943: The Book of Fred: A Novel
View all copies of this ISBN edition:
 
 

Filled with soulful humor and quiet pathos, Abby Bardi's boldly drawn first novel marks the debut of a joyfully talented chronicler of the quest for connection in contemporary life.
Mary Fred Anderson, raised in an isolated fundamentalist sect whose primary obsessions seem to involve an imminent Apocalypse and the propagation of the name "Fred," is hardly your average fifteen-year-old. She has never watched TV, been to a supermarket, or even read much of anything beyond the inscrutable dogma laid out by the prophet Fred. But this is all before Mary Fred's whole world tilts irrevocably on its axis: before her brothers, Fred and Freddie, take sick and pass on to the place the Reverend Thigpen calls "the World Beyond"; before Mama and Papa are escorted from the Fredian Outpost in police vans; and Mary Fred herself is uprooted and placed in foster care with the Cullison family. It is here, at Alice Cullison's suburban home outside Washington, D.C., where everything really changes -- for all parties involved.
Mary Fred's new guardian, Alice, is a large-hearted librarian who, several years after her divorce, can't seem to shake her grief and loneliness. Meanwhile, Alice's daughter Heather, also known as Puffin, buries any hint of her own adolescent loneliness beneath an impenetrable armor of caustic sarcasm, studied apathy, and technicolor hair. And the enigmatic Uncle Roy is Alice's perennially jobless and intensely private brother. As Mary Fred struggles to adjust to the oddities of this alien world, from sordid daytime television and processed food to aromatherapy and transsexuality, she gradually begins to have an unmistakable influence on the lives of her housemates. But when a horrifying act of violence shakes the foundations of Mary Fred's fragile new family, she finds herself forced to confront, painfully, the very nature of the way she was raised.
With a knack for laying bare the absurdities of daily life, Abby Bardi captures, with grace and authority, all the ambivalence and emotional uncertainty at the heart of these quirky characters' awakenings.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Abby Bardi, born and raised in Chicago, has worked as a singing waitress in Washington, D.C., an English teacher in Japan and England, a performer on England's country-and-western circuit, and, most recently, as a professor at Prince George's Community College. Author of a column called "Sin of the Month" for The Takoma Voice, she is married with two children and lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: The Book of Mary Fred

When Little Freddie took sick, I knew things would change, and change fast. We sat next to his bed all day, laying our hands on him and saying the Beautiful Prayer, but he just got hotter to the touch and more shivery. His skin looked yellow, like he was turning into old paper. I laid my hand on his forehead and said "Get thee hence" a bunch of times, but it didn't help. That night I had a dream that the Archangel Willie came to me and said, "Lo, Mary Fred, thou wilt be traveling down the road. Thou wilt be somewheres else when the Big Cat comes. So look to yourself and say Ho."

When I woke up, I said Ho a bunch of times. Then I went to see Little Freddie, but he was already gone.

Mama and Papa wanted to take his body down to the Compound, but the people from the County came and said they needed to take him for an all topsy. I wish I could say I had never seen Papa so mad, but the truth is he had been that mad before. "My temper is my trial," he always used to say, but sometimes I thought he was right to get so steamed, especially the past year when the same thing happened down at the Compound with my other brother, Fred. "My children belong to the One, not you people," he yelled at the man from the Coroner's office as they took Fred away in a black bag. We all stood there crying as they drove away with him. After a few days, they brought him back and said we could bury him, so we had a nice funeral in the Compound cemetery. The Reverend Smith did the service and it sounded real peaceful. I liked when he said Fred was up in the World Beyond with all the angels dancing around him in a heavenly circle. He made it sound so good I wanted to go there right away.

So when Little Freddie went onward, I didn't feel as bad as I might have. I was getting used to these things, and I figured he'd be happier where he was. The only bad thing was we couldn't bury him with Fred, we had to bury him up at the Outpost, and not as many people were at the funeral, and the Reverend Thigpen wasn't as jolly and nice as the Reverend Smith. He talked about the mountains covered with snow, and I wished Little Freddie had taken a coat with him because it sounded mighty cold up there. After the service, we had some sandwiches in the main hall, and then we went back to our cabin to wait. Papa said he knew it would only be a matter of time, and he was right.

It took two days for the County to come out to see us. Mama had cleaned up the cabin as best as she could. She made up Little Freddie's bed real nice, and the rest of us tidied up our stuff so things looked neat. I swept out the kitchen and the bathroom, which got a lot of spiders in them generally, and I raked the leaves out front so the grass looked clean and orderly. I raked really hard because I knew something would happen, and I was hoping to make it go as easy with all of us as possible. The Book says that the One told us to sow lots of grass, because grass is the word of the sower. That's why we planted so much, because it spread the Good News more quickly.

But it was a dry June, and the grass was dying all across the Outpost. That's how I knew.

The woman who drove me away said her name was Diane. She seemed like a nice enough lady, so I went with her without crying, or trying to run away, like my younger brothers and sisters were doing. We all went in different cars because we were going to different places, and all of them were hanging out the car windows yelling for Mama. By that time, Mama wasn't even there. They'd taken her and Papa away in a police van, but the little ones didn't know that. I kept them inside when she left. I was the only Big now, since Fred went home to the World Beyond, and sometimes it was hard being the only one who understood what was going on. I had been the middle one of the Bigs, between Fred and Little Freddie, and then there were the four Littles. Mama and Papa always said we were their stairsteps. There was a step missing between Little Freddie and me, a baby who had died.

Diane kept talking to me about stuff outside the window. She'd say things like "Look at the cows," and I'd look and say the cows were nice, though personally I liked pigs better because they were smarter. "Did you learn all about animals in school?" she asked me. I said of course not, I had learned about them from feeding them, and anyway, she probably knew I hadn't been to school in some time, not since we'd left the Compound. "Would you like to go to school?" she asked. She had a way of asking questions with this bright face that made you want to give her the right answer just to keep her from busting out crying. So I said yes, even though I didn't want to go to school. I wanted to go back to the Outpost, but since I knew Mama and Papa were going to be gone for a while, my second choice was the Compound. I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I decided to travel hopefully in the One.

I watched Diane as she drove. She had gray and black hair standing like wires all around her head, and red marks in the corners of her mouth. Her skin was spotty, and her eyes were squinting through her glasses while she watched the road. As we drove, the road got bigger and more full of cars and trucks, and things started to look more city-like on either side. I could see rows of little houses in lines, and all the green began to disappear. I thought of asking her where we were going, but it didn't matter that much to me. I knew that wherever it was, Mama and Papa wouldn't be there, and I would dwell among Lackers, like the Book said not to, and the Littles would be somewhere else, wondering where we all were and needing us. The thought made me want to cry, but I just stared really hard out the window and pretended I was running down one of the city streets, then flying up to the World Beyond, and in a while I felt a bit better.

After about an hour of driving, Diane got off at an exit and drove to a square building. We went up in an elevator. She asked if I wanted to push the button, and I did. When the doors opened, we went down a wide hallway to some glass doors that said County something or other. Only it was a different county from the one the Outpost was in. Both the Outpost and the Compound were in Frederick County, only they were two different Frederick Counties. The Reverend Smith always said that was no accident, that the counties had been waiting for the blessing of our Coming, and when we had come, we had fulfilled the prophecy of the county fathers.

This county was not a Frederick, but that didn't surprise me. I was ready to spend some time with Lackers. It had happened once before, when I was small. We got taken into custody because Papa was brought in for illegal possession of firearms, and it took a few weeks for us to get home to Mama. That was in Tennessee, before the Compound was located. We always say it was located, not found, because as far as we're concerned, the Compound was always there, we just didn't happen to be there with it.

I had been to school with Lackers, back at the Compound, and I didn't mind them. They left us alone and we left them alone, and most of the time we all got along just fine. Every so often one of them would beat up one of my brothers, or one of my brothers would beat up one of them -- usually for saying something about our clothes. We always had to wear something brown, since brown is the color of prophecy, and sometimes people said mean things about that. But most of the time even the Lackers knew that the Big Cat was coming, and coming soon, and they seemed to want to stay on our good side just in case we turned out to be right about everything else.

I sat in a chair next to Diane's desk while she filled out forms. One form after another, she wrote and wrote, asking me questions every now and then. Did I wear glasses? No. How old would I be on my next birthday? Sixteen. Did I have any food allergies? No, but I didn't like beets. Had I ever had any serious illnesses? Chicken pox, measles, German measles, and mumps, and the One had seen me through all of them just fine, thank you for asking. What grade was I in? I would have been in tenth this year if we'd stayed at the Compound. Fred would have been in twelfth, and Little Freddie in seventh. She didn't ask me about them, but I thought that. I thought about them a lot and wondered how they liked it where they were.

"You'll have to stay at the shelter for a day or two, until this all gets processed," Diane said.

"Thank you, Miss Diane," I said. I was pretty good with my please-and-thank-yous. You never knew when you'd need them.

"Just call me Diane," she said.

"I don't think I can," I said. "Mama always says that adults are your olders and betters. I'd feel funny calling you just Diane."

"Try," she said.

"Okay. Diane. I'll do my best. Diane." It sounded odd to me, but then, I knew that a lot of things would be odd from now on.

The shelter was called the House of Ruth, which made me feel right at home since I know that Ruth was someone in the Old Book. We didn't read the Old Book, just the New, but still, I felt right at home with folks who were in it. I never did meet anyone named Ruth, but there were some nice enough women and kids in there. Some of them had brown skin, which took some getting used to, but we were always taught that brown was a gift from Above, so we didn't mind it.

They gave me a stuffed dog to sleep with the first night there. We had never had any toys like that, since Papa said they were craven images, but when I tried to go to sleep, I found myself petting the dog and thinking about Little Freddie. I'd close my eyes and see him playing hopscotch with my sisters, and throwing stones at cans in the woods. The hair at the back of his head wouldn't lay flat, and we were always licking our hands and patting his head to get it to stay down. His hair was soft and straight, and he smelled like boys do, of sweat and dirt and the air. I felt the smell of him, and as I breathed in, something caught in my chest, and I put my arms around the stuffed dog and held him while I tried to sleep. All night long, I dreamed I was home, at the dinner table with my whole family, but then sometimes when I'd look at Fred, or Little Freddie, they would seem to be disappearing, turning all filmy and see-through like veils. I'd try to call out to them, but the words would stick in my throat, and once I woke myself up trying to shout. It was hard to get back to sleep after that, but finally I did.

That morning, the sun shone in the window and woke me, and I knew it was the light of the One telling me to get up and get cracking. I jumped up and put on my clothes. Some of the little kids in the room were still sleeping, so I dressed real quietly, then went downstairs to wait for Diane. One of the volunteers made me some oatmeal, and I ate it, though I don't like oatmeal in summer and it was already hot out, not really an oatmeal kind of day. By the time Diane came at ten o'clock, the little kids were up and watching TV, and one of them was jumping up and down on the sofa but nobody seemed to mind. Diane came and filled out some paperwork while I tried to shush everyone, and then we got back into her car and drove some more. I was just as glad to get away from the children, since being with them was making me think about the Littles and wonder where they were and if they were sad like I was.

It felt weird to be in Diane's car, since we didn't ride in cars at all back at the Compound, though at the Outpost we did it a lot more since stuff was more spread out and the town was nearby. I liked looking out the window, so I watched the road as it got wider and busier still, and then we turned off the highway onto a street and went past a bunch of apartments. Kids were playing outside, and though they were brown, mostly, they reminded me of Little Freddie. Everywhere I looked, I saw little boys playing with their sisters, throwing balls to them, chasing them down the street and laughing.

After a while, the streets got more winding and narrow, and they were lined with houses, the kind of houses with porches and flowers climbing up the side of them. Some of the flowers were big and bushy, with wild purple blossoms, as if no one had ever trimmed them. The houses weren't the new kind you see all over the county, but old, with funny angles and peeling paint. I knew that the Book said something about flowers, but I couldn't think of what it was. "The flower falleth, but the proverbs of Fred endureth forever." Something like that. It worried me that I had forgotten.

We pulled up in front of a pink house with purple trim that looked like it had just been painted. The pink was the color of rare meat, and looking at it made me a little queasy. As we were driving, Diane had explained to me that I was going to stay with a foster family, the Cullisons, for a while, and that I would like it there. She said they were a nice family and that they would take good care of me. I asked if all my brothers and sisters were going to nice foster families too, and she said yes. So I tried to make myself feel relieved about that, but I didn't -- I felt jittery and out of sorts.

We walked through a wooden gate in the front. When we swung it open, it leaned sideways on its hinges. Papa would have hammered a few nails in it right away, but he wasn't there, of course, so we just walked right in and up some steps. The steps had been newly painted purple too, and they were a little bit sticky. The front door was heavy and wooden, and it had a piece of glass in it with little diamond-shapes around the edges. Through the glass, I could see someone approaching. Her eyes seemed to widen, and then she threw the door open and stood there smiling at me but in a nervous kind of way, like someone seeing a skunk on the path on their way back from the well.

"Mary Fred, this is Alice Cullison. She's going to be taking care of you for a while."

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Cullison."

"Oh," Alice Cullison said. She had straggly graying brown hair, pulled back in a ponytail, and very pale skin, and her eyes were light gray-blue. Her cheeks got a little bit red, and she said, "Oh, not Mrs., dear. Could you just call me Alice, please?"

I knew better than to argue, having gone that round with Diane. "Sure, Alice." I felt all smart-alecky saying it, and I grinned a little.

"Come in, come in," Alice said, smacking herself on the side of the head with her hand like she'd forgotten something. "It's so hot out already today, isn't it? I'm sorry we don't have air-conditioning, Mary Fred, but it's cool in your room. I put a fan in there, and it works pretty well. It sort of sucks the air in from the window and stirs things up."

We walked into a small, dark sitting room with some old faded sofas in it. The sofas had blankets thrown over them but you could still see that their arms were worn out. Alice went on chatting with us as if she hadn't seen another living soul in a week. "Would you like some lemonade? It's just Country Time but I made a whole pitcher of it. Of course, it has aspartame in it and -- Mary Fred, you don't have a seizure disorder or anything, do you? I hate aspartame, but Heather likes it so I always -- Diane, can I get you something? Mary Fred?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'd like a lemonade please, and thank you."

Alice gave Diane a funny look, like she was panicking and needed help in the kitchen, but Diane sat down on the sofa and motioned for me to do the same. "Do you have any questions for me, Mary Fred?"

"No, ma'am. Diane."

"Don't you want to know something about the Cullisons?"

"Not really, ma'am. I'm sure I'll find out soon enough." The truth wa...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Buy New View Book
List Price: US$ 21.95
US$ 31.79

Convert Currency

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.

Destination, Rates & Speeds

Add to Basket

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780743411936: The Book of Fred: A Novel

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0743411935 ISBN 13:  9780743411936
Publisher: Washington Square Press, 2001
Hardcover

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Abby Bardi
Published by SIMON SCHUSTER, United States (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Book Depository International
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. THE BOOK OF FRED, narrated by four quirky characters, tells the story of Mary Fred Anderson, a teenager from a rural fundamentalist sect who is placed in foster care in the Washington, D.C., suburbs with librarian Alice Cullison. As Mary Fred tries to adjust to the oddities of Alice s unemployed brother Roy, her fifteen-year-old daughter Heather, known as Puffin, and their weird friends and neighbours - transsexuals, Unitarians, and aromatherapists - she begins to have a subtle influence on the lives of those around her. Soon, Mary Fred is forced to question everything she has been raised to believe in, including the strange doctrines of the prophet Fred. When confronted with a series of apocalyptic events, Mary Fred must make some tough choices, and the powerful climax of the novel forces her to decide what a family really means. THE BOOK OF FRED is a dark, funny but also deeply serious examination of family values at the end of our century. Seller Inventory # FLT9780743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 31.79
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Abby Bardi
Published by Washington Square Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Softcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Portland, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Washington Square Press, 2002. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 31.80
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Abby Bardi
Published by Washington Square Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Washington Square Press, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Seller Inventory # DADAX0743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 28.07
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Abby Bardi
Published by SIMON SCHUSTER, United States (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. THE BOOK OF FRED, narrated by four quirky characters, tells the story of Mary Fred Anderson, a teenager from a rural fundamentalist sect who is placed in foster care in the Washington, D.C., suburbs with librarian Alice Cullison. As Mary Fred tries to adjust to the oddities of Alice s unemployed brother Roy, her fifteen-year-old daughter Heather, known as Puffin, and their weird friends and neighbours - transsexuals, Unitarians, and aromatherapists - she begins to have a subtle influence on the lives of those around her. Soon, Mary Fred is forced to question everything she has been raised to believe in, including the strange doctrines of the prophet Fred. When confronted with a series of apocalyptic events, Mary Fred must make some tough choices, and the powerful climax of the novel forces her to decide what a family really means. THE BOOK OF FRED is a dark, funny but also deeply serious examination of family values at the end of our century. Seller Inventory # FLT9780743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 38.62
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Bardi, Abby
Published by Washington Square Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Washington Square Press, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 40.77
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Bardi, Abby
Published by Washington Square Pr (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Revaluation Books
(Exeter, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Washington Square Pr, 2002. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. reprint edition. 320 pages. 8.25x4.75x0.75 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk0743411943

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 38.70
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 9.88
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Abby Bardi
Published by Washington Square Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0743411943 ISBN 13: 9780743411943
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Books Express
(Portsmouth, NH, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Washington Square Press, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Ships with Tracking Number! INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE Shipping available. Buy with confidence, excellent customer service!. Seller Inventory # 0743411943n

More information about this seller | Contact this seller

Buy New
US$ 110.12
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds