Cover image for The Book of Fred
The Book of Fred
Bardi, Abby.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Washington Square Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
292 pages ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1140 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 15.0 68852.

Reading Counts RC High School 9 23 Quiz: 33013 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Raised in an isolated fundamentalist sect, Mary Fred Anderson experiences upheaveal in her life when circumstances leave her in a foster home that opens her eyes to an alien world and a violent act that changes everyone involved.

Author Notes

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 in a musical duo called The 2 Bored Housewives, and most recently, as a tenured professor at Prince George's Community College.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

When Alice Cullison decides to become a foster parent to quirky Mary Fred, she doesn't anticipate the changes in her life. Alice is still in love with her ex-husband; her aloof daughter, Heather, is addicted to television and curtness; and her sarcastic brother, Roy, remains depressed and unemployed. Enter Mary Fred, a 15-year-old from a fundamentalist family whose parents are charged with child abuse. Mary seems younger than her years; her strict parents and their cultlike faith have made her obedient and childlike. Heather introduces her to pop culture, fashion, and TV, bringing Mary out of her secluded world. Mary bonds with the Cullison family, even though they are lackers (people lacking in a sense of the Imminence), and as they begin to change their lives for the better, so does Mary. All major characters get their turn to speak, but Mary's narrative voice is the most absorbing, and the result is a well-done and believable family drama. --Michelle Kaske

Publisher's Weekly Review

When 15-year-old Mary Fred Anderson's parents are charged with second-degree murder in the neglectful death of their son, Mary Fred is sent from the fundamentalist commune she's grown up in to the nearby Maryland suburbs and the foster care of a quirky 1990s family headed by librarian Alice Cullison, in this topical but uneven debut. A single mom, Alice lives with her brother, Roy, and her sullen 15-year-old daughter, Heather. Bardi has set up a high-concept collision involving several timely issues: cult religions and drugs (Roy spends his days working a scam that enables him to buy heroin, but Heather is too self-absorbed to notice and Alice too flummoxed). Despite the use of multiple narrators the novel is divided into the Book of Mary Fred, the Book of Alice, the Book of Roy and the Book of Heather characters are not fully developed because they are captive to the plot. (Bardi is good at interior dialogue, however, as when Heather muses, "I don't like anything about Sara. For one thing, she's very polite and self-confident and she talks to adults like she's their oldest friend.") The result is unsatisfactory ambiguity: Bardi wants us to take seriously the members of her cobbled-together family, but throws in a kitchen-sinkful of colorful secondary characters for comic effect; the Cullisons' neighbor Paula, for instance, is a postoperative transsexual heavily dependent on astrology. The contrast between the hardworking, literal-minded Mary Fred and the materialistic, self-absorbed Heather is potentially most interesting, but their relationship is not thoroughly fleshed out. Bardi's message may be that cult member or not, we each carry the burden of a belief system a sound enough idea, but one only sketchily developed. (Sept.) Forecast: Bardi pushes lots of hot buttons here, and browsers may bite when they scan the cover copy; the quirky title will help, too. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The Cullisons are a thoroughly modern family. Alice is a frazzled single mom, daughter Heather is a lethargic teen permanently attached to the TV remote, and Uncle Roy is a middle-class heroin addict. Clearly, they are totally unprepared when Mary Fred Anderson, a thoroughly unmodern teen, enters their lives. But when she is removed from her fundamentalist family after the death of a brother, she enters into their care. Steeped in the rules and traditions of the prophet Fred Brown, Mary Fred is a thoughtful, obedient young woman who has never seen television, only wears brown, and expects to eat meals with everyone gathered at the table. She is too young to resist some modern temptations, including Judge Judy and pink clothing, and the Cullisons are not too far gone to be influenced by her straightforwardness or to be hurt when she suddenly returns to her family. Told alternately by each of the four main characters, this first novel is a vivid story of lives intersecting, separating, and intersecting again. Recommended for all fiction collections. Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-This story of two 15-year-olds from disparate backgrounds is told with humor, understanding, and love. Mary Fred was raised in a fundamentalist community; her parents are jailed for allowing two of their sons to die from untreated illness. Alice, a single parent who lives in what seems to be an idyllic suburban neighborhood with her daughter Heather and her brother Roy, is appointed Mary Fred's guardian. From living with little schooling and in isolation, the teen is plunged into Heather's world of TV, pizza, high school, and a family that is shockingly disorderly and undisciplined. Mary Fred proceeds to clean and organize the household and get the family members to eat their dinner at the table and actually talk to one another. Heather metamorphoses from a TV and snack-food addicted couch potato into a reasonably polite and helpful daughter. In turn, Mary Fred begins to read books other than the New Testament and the Book of Fred, the dictum of her former community, and becomes a fan of Judge Judy. Just when these characters have melded into a caring family, a horrible act of violence at school leaves the protagonist close to death. The climax to the story, Mary Fred's return home, is both riveting and satisfying.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.