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The Book of Fred

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  836 ratings  ·  127 reviews
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 fift
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 1st 2002 by Washington Square Press (first published August 28th 2001)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Fred Forbes
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
OK, I admit it, I got this as a joke. Sort of like joining the "Marching Freds" in the annual King Mango Strut parade in Coral Gables. When your name is Fred, you do what you can. Figured this would be an interesting goof on fundamentalist religion - following the book of Fred Brown, wearing the "holy" brown clothing, preparing for the "Big Cat" - catastrophe or cataclysm, take your pick - on January 7, eschew doctors, science, television, etc. Well, when two children die due to medical issues t ...more
Danika Dinsmore
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was truly surprised by this book. I chose it because I'm teaching a unit on "families" in my critical thinking class and I thought a brainwashed girl from a religious cult moving into a foster home would make for an interesting discussion. I grew so attached to the wonderfully flawed characters that I was ready to throw my book across the room if the author pulled a "My Sister's Keeper" on me.

There are five chapters (or "books") told from different points of view. In the first we journey with
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
1. What the?
2. A whole lot of crazy went on in this book. But I like crazy.
3. I picked it up because it dealt with cults and that subject fascinates me. I've been reading a lot of non-fiction books about people escaping from cults.
4. I liked how it switched points of view to show the hurt and the healing that the characters went through.
5. I wonder if cult members could really just jump so easily to a new cult when theirs didn't work out.
6. Mary Fred is going to need a lot of counseling from a
Sep 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007-reads
I know I am enjoying the book when I am frantically skimming sentences to find out what is going to happen next. I thought the story told, by four different characters, was ingenious. Bardi did a very good job changing her style from each character point of view. You actually felt like you went from inside one head to the other. I thought the religious sect angle was interesting and unique. It was comforting to finally read a book where the foster child actually has a good experience with the fo ...more
Jessica Brazeal
Aug 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kayt O'Bibliophile
Raised in a fundamentalist sect, Mary Fred is sent to live with an outside ("Lacker") foster family after her parents are arrested for second-degree murder (Two of their kids died because they didn't provide medical treatment.) It’s not a book that focuses on life within and/or escaping a sect, as The Chosen One does. Rather, it focuses on the characters—mainly Mary Fred as she learns about and adjusts to life “outside,” but also how her presence affects the family she lives with. Each characte ...more
Dec 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Megan by: Novelist
Shelves: adult, own, fiction, 2008
Told in alternating viewpoints, The Book of Fred is a coming-of-age story focused mainly on Mary Fred, moved to a foster home after her cultist parents’ views on modern medicine cause two of her brothers to die of curable illnesses. Since Mary Fred was raised in an isolated compound, focused mainly on the teachings of a prophet named, well, Fred, she’s at first astounded by such things as can openers, daytime television, and clothes in colors other than brown. We follow first Mary Fred, then oth ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have never cared so much how a book ends and what the outcome will be for the main character. I could not turn the pages fast enough and can therefore only pay the warmest tribute to Abby Bardi for a splendid creation. This is a very moving read both well-written and populated by people who matter to the reader. I will not give away anything of the book as I urge you to simply come to it with a clear head and an open heart. Wonderful!
Kim Faires
Dec 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this book very enjoyable!
Debi Wilcox
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed how this story was written in the first person through the eyes of each of the main characters weaving the story together in such a way that you connect with each one individually. The impact the main character has on the lives of the family she is placed with is so heartwarming. Seeing her inner struggles regarding the cult lifestyle she was raised in made my heart hurt and frustrated me, but in the end she endured beautifully.
Apr 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I didn’t know what to expect of The Book of Fred. Having heard it was quite funny, I didn’t expect it to go all too deep when it comes to cults and the like. And so it goes…I starts of on a lighter note – which made me raise an eyebrow. After all, the 15 year old girl is raised in an sect, and just like all her siblings taken away and placed into foster care after her parents put the fate of their sons – who died - in the hand of The One, instead of trusting on (modern) medicine and got arrested ...more
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
The Book of Fred was a horrible book to read. I’m not sure what it is that made it bad for me. I don’t recommend it at all. The story is okay but the way it was plotted was horrible. The thing that made it hard to read was it repeated itself TOO MANY TIMES. The story was simple but it took too long to get the new news.
The story is a girl’s family is separated because the mom and dad did something, not really known to the reader they mention murder but it doesn’t go too far in detail about it. An
Fifteen year old Mary Fred Anderson has never watched TV. Never went to a super market, or read anything beyond the inscrutable dogma of the prophet Fred. But when her brothers Fred and Freddie, die of curable illness, their parents are in jail for allowing two of their sons to die from untreated illness. and Mary Fred goes into a foster care in a Washington, D.C. suburb. As she struggles to understand everything from sordid daytime television to aromatherapy, Mary Fred begins to positively infl ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really like this book- even more than I expected, actually. 15-year-old Mary Fred is taken into foster care while her parents, members of a religious cult, are tried for the wrongful deaths of her brothers. Having lived on "The Compound" and "The Outpost" all her life, Mary Fred is totally unprepared for the real world. Alice, her foster mother, is a mousy librarian who never got over her divorce from the father of Heather, her blue-haired rebel daughter. Heather also still struggles with her ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This novel has both an unusual title and an unusual focus: it's the story of a teenage girl removed from a bizarre fundamentalist cult in the late 1990's (during the Y2K scare), who builds a new life with a foster family in suburban Maryland, and as we come to see, that representative run-of-the-mill middle class family has some serious issues of their own. Bardi adopts a technique of letting each of the four main characters relate part of the narrative from her or his own perspective (think Fau ...more
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mary Fred, age 15, is removed from her parents care after her brothers die from treatable illnesses. They are part of a cult-like “compound” that believes in prayer over modern medicine. Her foster family consists of Alice, Alice’s brother “Uncle Roy” and Alice’s daughter, Heather, who is also 16. All are initially disconcerted by Mary Fred, her odd religion and her work ethic, but as she eases into the family and begins to experience the outside world, all are changed and improved by the situat ...more
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like to think about cults and coming of age
The things I like about this book:
The characters were deep while not being hokey with their positiveness.
The perspective of the story changed. Not as much as in As I Lay Dying by William Faulker, but reminiscent. But maybe that's just because I'm a northerner and this book takes place outside of DC and in Virginia and North Carolina and somehow I lump. Also, there was a decent amount of sickness and bedside stuff in this book, so there's similarity there too.
Seemingly realistic dealings with bot
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The first fifth of the first sentence on the back cover was enough to get me to pick it up from the library shelf. I'm fascinated by all things involving fundamentalist cults and the first bit was about the main character who is removed from her family for reasons relating to the cult they're in. I loved the way the story was told from several different perspectives, adding more depth to the bits you already knew and then continuing on into more detail about that character's s ...more
Theresa Maher
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, but be won't be able to put it down.
I didn't know what to think when I picked up this book. I thought it was going to be a lot of cult stuff watered down so that it wouldn't freek people out. I was completely wrong. As you learn about Mary Fred and you see how her foster family adjusts to her, you realize that maybe she isn't the one with all of the drama. From beginning to end, this book is intense. The book starts with the death of her baby brother and Mary Fred (M.F., the nickname for her that makes everyone but her giggle)bein ...more
Melody Richardson
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is not something I normally would have read. I picked it because my old literature teacher was using it in her class and she suggested it to me. This is the story of a girl named Mary Fred who grew up in a cult. When her parents refused medical help for her dying brothers she was sent away to live in foster care. With the help of Alice she is able to face her past and open her eyes to the world around her. She learns to appreciate both sides of her life, both in and out of the cult. Th ...more
Oct 03, 2007 rated it liked it
I bought this book either because, well, there is a fish and the fish is connected to the name Fred, and that all ties into one of the oldest inside jokes in my brain. And because the author has "Bard" in her name. Or maybe it was a present. Again with the goofy book choices. This is another in the accidental local-author series. It's a teen novel, essentially, and a nice little snack.

The main character, a girl named Mary Fred, is taken from her parents and placed in a foster home because her f
Jan 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, young-adult
Mary Fred is a teenager who lives with her family on a commune as part of a religious cult who follows a man named Fred Brown, who wrote their religious text, “The Book of Fred”. Two of her younger brothers - Fred and Freddie - die of curable illnesses, and her family is taken into custody: her parents by the prison authorities, and she and her siblings by social services. The Book of Fred chronicles Mary Fred’s time with her foster family, including the changes she makes within herself and in h ...more
Rachel Fessenbecker
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be an interesting delight. Bardi does an excellent job of drawing us into the world of the four main characters by changing point of view throughout the novel. The character Mary Fred is the most unique as she was raised in an isolated fundamentalist sect, obsessed with an Apocalypse that she’s sure will soon occur. Her whole world flips upside down when her brothers pass away and her parents are taken away by the police. She starts a new life with a foster family and the ef ...more
Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Told in five "books", like books of the Bible, we learn the story of Mary Fred, who has been raised in a Kareshian type cult/fundy Christian organization and she's never been allowed to go to school and has to wear the color brown a lot. After two of her siblings die because her parents refuse to seek medical treatment, Mary Fred is taken from her parents and placed with a foster family with troubles of their own. How Mary Fred's goodness and innocence change her foster family for the better mak ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I never would have picked this book normally. I stumbled upon it walking down the aisle in the library and the title intrigued me. The premise is that a girl of 16 has grown up in a cult commune. Her parents are arrested when one of her brothers dies from a treatable illness. All of the other children in the family are sent to separate foster homes. Mary Fred starts out believing that these outsiders are going to the cult version of hell and tries to remain polite but aloof. As her story progres ...more
Jan 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! It was an easy read with a very interesting subject. I've never much thought about cults except what you hear about them time to time in the news. So this was a pretty refreshing story that gives you an almost "inside" look about what living in a cult can do to a person. What I also thought was pretty neat was that the book switched viewpoints between each of the characters. Normally I don't like this but the author made it work pretty well. The only reason why I didn ...more
A sometimes lighthearted take on the social and psychological effects of growing up in a cult. 15-year-old Mary Fred is removed from the commune where she has grown up among a fundamentalist cult after her two brothers die of curable diseases. She is placed in a foster home and encounters many elements of the modern world that she has never seen before. A member of my book club made an astute observation, comparing the four main characters to the four principal characters of The Wizard of Oz, be ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
I started reading this book and the further I got, the more I didn't like it. It seemed repetative and dragged on. It is about a teenage girl who is removed from her parent's home, really a compound in a cult, and put into foster care. Her parents have allowed her two younger brothers to die because they did not believe in taking them to a doctor.
So, Mary Fred comes into this home where Heather is a teenager, spoiled rotten by her mother, an unemployed, out of touch uncle and a mother who is a
Doriana Bisegna
Jan 29, 2015 rated it liked it
This novel deals with a child that is sent to foster care after having spent her early childhood in a cult. I enjoyed the storyline and have always been fascinated by people that live in this type of situation. The story offered enough twists and turns and was divided into 4 parts so that each character had their own story to tell. That is what made it very enjoyable for me to keep reading. I enjoyed reading about the different perspectives of each character and the struggles that they were faci ...more
Sequoia Hellesvig-lopez
Dec 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sequoia by: OBOB
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Abby Bardi is the author of THE BOOK OF FRED, THE SECRET LETTERS, and DOUBLE TAKE. She grew up in Chicago, went to college in California, then spent a decade teaching English in Japan and England. She currently teaches at a college in Maryland and lives in historic Ellicott City with her husband and dog.

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