A review of the Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison

Turning 81 is not a remarkable event, unless a milk float runs you down, giving you a concussion, breaking your arm and fracturing a bone in your foot. When this happened to Frank Derrick, he probably said nothing more than “ouch.” Frank’s daughter, however, thinks he needs some home help during his recovery. The last think Frank wants is weekly visits from with some bossy woman who would possibly scare (or even look like) Margret Thatcher. Then the pretty, 27 year-old Kelly Christmas shows up at his door, and the only thing he’s sure of is that this isn’t what he was expecting – and that’s a good thing.

My Review

Cover art courtesy of Pan Macmillan

Cover art courtesy of Pan Macmillan

No, Frank Derrick is not Harold Fry (although if you liked Harold’s Unlikely Pilgrimage, you’ll probably enjoy this book as well). Frank Derrick is a lonely, widowed pensioner living with his cat Bill underneath the flight pathway of Gatwick Airport, with his only daughter living in America. However, unlike your typical grandfather, Frank isn’t quite as out-of-touch with today’s world as many writers like to make their older characters out to be. Yes, his memory isn’t quite what it used to be, and there are things that anger, confuse him or make him wary of their value, but he’s hardly helpless (except with his finances). He’s adept with his cell phone (including texting), has a collection of movies on DVD, can surf the internet (on the library’s computers) and would prefer to listen to the Beatles or the Sex Pistols than songs from the WWII era. In fact, he doesn’t like people thinking of him as an elderly person – because he’s cool.


This is what makes Frank so realistic, and Morrison makes us adore him from the onset, even when he’s being pigheaded or doing something he knows is stupid. Sure, he doesn’t have a much to occupy his time, doesn’t eat healthily and wastes his money. Even so, he actually takes overall good care of himself, somewhat. Of course, a fractured foot and broken arm do make his life more difficult, and that’s what Kelly is there to help with – but only for 12 weekly visits. The limited time Kelly has with him makes Frank believe that his life has never been extraordinary, but rather it’s always been extra ordinary, and that’s something Kelly might change.

The thing that struck me the most about this book was how smoothly it all flowed, like a song. (That Morrison is also a musician with his own band means this is comes as no surprise.) While the language isn’t in the least bit poetic, it still had a lyrical feel to it. Mind you, some of the lyrics were as stark as a rock song, but this fit Frank’s character perfectly. This carried through the whole novel, including the ending, which – surprisingly enough – rather than crashing to a close, faded out like the echoes of a final chord. With that, we leave Frank wondering what, if anything will change in his future, but sure that Kelly has done more than simply help his physical recovery from the accident.

Frank is undeniably a beautifully crafted and lovingly written character, the study of whom delves into the elements of friendship and loneliness. This includes delving into the relationships between the young and the elderly – both on professional and personal levels. While admittedly, there are some very poignant scenes here; Morrison tempers this with just the right amounts of humor, so you’ll find yourself smiling from start to finish. Together with the honesty that Morrison brings to Frank, this becomes a truly endearing story and the type of character you’ll hope to meet some day. For all this, I have to give this novel a full five stars out of five, and highly recommend it.

NG Apple_NetGalley Health Rev 3“The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81” by J.B. Morrison, released on June 5, 2014 by Pan Macmillan (Pan Books), is available in paperback, audio, Kindle and iBook versions, from Barnes & Noble or from an IndieBound store. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an advance reader copy of this novel via NetGalley.

(This is a revised version of the review that originally appeared on {the now defunct} Yahoo! Voices.)