A Life in Men: A Novel

A Life in Men: A Novel

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by Gina Frangello
     
 

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The friendship between Mary and Nix had endured since childhood, a seemingly unbreakable bond, until the mid-1980s, when the two young women embarked on a summer vacation in Greece. It was a trip initiated by Nix, who had just learned that Mary had been diagnosed with a disease that would cut her life short and who was determined that it be the vacation of a

Overview

The friendship between Mary and Nix had endured since childhood, a seemingly unbreakable bond, until the mid-1980s, when the two young women embarked on a summer vacation in Greece. It was a trip initiated by Nix, who had just learned that Mary had been diagnosed with a disease that would cut her life short and who was determined that it be the vacation of a lifetime. But by the time their visit to Greece was over, Nix had withdrawn from their friendship, and Mary had no idea why.

Three years later, Nix is dead, and Mary returns to Europe to try to understand what went wrong. In the process she meets the first of many men that she will spend time with as she travels throughout the world. Through them she experiences not only a sexual awakening but a spiritual and emotional awakening that allows her to understand how the past and the future are connected and to appreciate the freedom to live life adventurously.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/11/2013
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 17, Mary Grace wants to understand why her lifelong friendship with Nix went awry during an ill-fated Greek vacation before their junior year of college. She can’t ask Nix, who has passed away, so she moves to London, where Nix lived in the months prior to her death. For a short time, Mary assumes Nix’s name and adventurous personality and begins to experiment with a wild, seedy lifestyle, describing everything in a diary addressed to her dead friend while trying to hide or ignore her own resurfacing illness. Mary’s determination to compress an entire lifetime of experiences into a few years results in some spectacularly poor decisions, but because her illness remains mild for a decade, her travels and the men she loves have a doomed, romantic quality, until the book’s conclusion. The aftermath of the Greek vacation unfolds inexorably, as Mary’s current storyline masterfully plays out to its conclusion. Frangello’s (Slut Lullabies) novel packs an emotional punch throughout, particularly in its final third. Agent: Alice Tasman, Jean Naggar Agency. (Feb.)
Review quotes

A Life in Men is a terrific book, a tender story of friendship, and a frank story of a young woman's adventures with an assortment of oddly funny, violent, and quirky men. It's intense and beautifully written.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife

“Original and fearless . . . A powerful portrait of human connection and individual triumph.” —People, 3.5 stars out of 4

“Ambitious, heartfelt." —Nylon

“A beautifully written, fiercely intelligent, and psychologically nuanced portrayal of a friendship cut tragically short, the delicate balance of fate and choice, and the many varieties of love and family that create meaning . . . A Life in Men is a sort of joyous call to action. It will make you look more carefully at the time you have left.” —The Oregonian

“Frangello’s powerful novel is ambitious, relentless, and entirely unsentimental . . . A work of art.” —The Boston Globe

“Frangello writes with a clarity into the human condition that allows her to lay bare the countless ways our lives are connected, between us and other people, but more importantly between ourselves and who we were and who we’re becoming . . . The book’s heartbreaking conclusion will leave you feeling you’ve been on the journey with these characters, and all the better for it.” —The Kansas City Star

“Frangello writes with epic ferocity. She inhabits many countries brilliantly, many characters seamlessly, and a carousel of points of view . . . It takes courage to write a book like this.” —Chicago Tribune, Printers Row

“A joyful, ambitious novel that is also an adventure traversing three continents, a meditation on love, sex, and, most important, friendship, which can overcome time, distance, and even death.” —Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River

“A stunning novel--Frangello’s broken characters live in a world of terror and redemption, of magnificent sadness and beauty.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this bravura performance, a quantum creative leap . . . Frangello astutely dissects the quandaries of female sexuality, adoption, terminal illness, and compound heartbreak in a torrent of tough-minded observations, audacious candor, and storytelling moxie.” —Booklist

From the Publisher
A Life in Men is a terrific book, a tender story of friendship, and a frank story of a young woman's adventures with an assortment of oddly funny, violent, and quirky men. It's intense and beautifully written.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife

“Original and fearless . . . A powerful portrait of human connection and individual triumph.” —People, 3.5 stars out of 4

“Ambitious, heartfelt." —Nylon

“A beautifully written, fiercely intelligent, and psychologically nuanced portrayal of a friendship cut tragically short, the delicate balance of fate and choice, and the many varieties of love and family that create meaning . . . A Life in Men is a sort of joyous call to action. It will make you look more carefully at the time you have left.” —The Oregonian

“Frangello’s powerful novel is ambitious, relentless, and entirely unsentimental . . . A work of art.” —The Boston Globe

“Frangello writes with a clarity into the human condition that allows her to lay bare the countless ways our lives are connected, between us and other people, but more importantly between ourselves and who we were and who we’re becoming . . . The book’s heartbreaking conclusion will leave you feeling you’ve been on the journey with these characters, and all the better for it.” —The Kansas City Star

“Frangello writes with epic ferocity. She inhabits many countries brilliantly, many characters seamlessly, and a carousel of points of view . . . It takes courage to write a book like this.” —Chicago Tribune, Printers Row

“A joyful, ambitious novel that is also an adventure traversing three continents, a meditation on love, sex, and, most important, friendship, which can overcome time, distance, and even death.” —Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River

“A stunning novel—Frangello’s broken characters live in a world of terror and redemption, of magnificent sadness and beauty.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this bravura performance, a quantum creative leap . . . Frangello astutely dissects the quandaries of female sexuality, adoption, terminal illness, and compound heartbreak in a torrent of tough-minded observations, audacious candor, and storytelling moxie.” —Booklist

Library Journal
12/01/2013
In the mid-1980s, when an American college student, Mary, is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, she escapes to Greece with the only person who doesn't treat her with pity: her best friend, Nicole. In a twist of fate, Nicole's life ends prematurely, and Mary tries to outrun her emotional burdens by living hard and reinventing herself in London, where she is drawn to men who lead risky lives. Intense yet meditative, Frangello's second novel (after My Sister's Continent) asks how we would live if we knew our life was going to be cut short. Mary lives out an "entitled hedonism." Even after she marries a doctor who loves her, she is drawn back to a life of chasing adventure, and the one man who never treated her like a fragile object. VERDICT Frangello's sophisticated writing vividly brings to life the settings of Mary's exotic travels, including Mexico, Amsterdam, and Morocco; she smoothly streams the consciousness of her complex characters in the third-person point of view, which alternates among Mary and her lovers. Ambitious in breadth and scope, this work will appeal to fans of Barbara Kingsolver and those who like being immersed in foreign settings.—Sonia Reppe, Stickney-Forest View P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-04
Frangello's ambitious second novel travels the world—to Kenya, London and beyond—searching for the kind of experiences that will validate two short lives. In the late 1980s, college sophomores Nix and Mary leave Ohio to summer in Greece. Mary has just been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and though it's unusual to be diagnosed so late (the disease kills most people in childhood), her prognosis is grim—she won't live to 25. Nix wants her to embrace what little life she has, but things go horribly wrong on Mykonos, and the two part ways. A few years later, Mary is in London, having an affair with Joshua, a South African acrobat, and living in a place one notch above a squat. Among the charismatic drifters of Arthog House are Sandor, an artist, and Yank, a photographer who involves Mary in petty crime to support his heroin addiction. None of them know about Mary's CF. One day, while out with Yank, Mary begins coughing up copious amounts of blood, their secrets now binding them in a kind of romantic nihilism. Nevertheless, Mary leaves with Joshua; they tour the world with his circus, ending up in Africa, where they work as safari guides. Having outlived her prognosis, Mary decides she wants normality and returns to the U.S. There are more men—as the title promises—each chapter named for the man who dominates a period in Mary's life before she leaves him. There's Eli, a married professor, and her birth father, Daniel, a handsome wastrel and former junkie currently living in a Mexican mansion. She becomes so sick while visiting Daniel that she returns to a hospital in the U.S., where she reunites with Geoff, the college student who rescued her and Nix in Mykonos. He's now an expert on her disease, as if he had been waiting for her. They settle down and, safe in the calm of matrimony, Mary goes to Amsterdam to meet her half brother Leo for the first time and finds both Sandor and Yank there too. For the last hundred pages, Leo, Sandor, Yank and Mary are in Morocco, under their sheltering sky, walking to Mary's death. Throughout the novel, Mary writes endlessly to Nix, though early on we learn she was killed not long after Mykonos in the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie and that Mary's whole short life has been a living tribute to the friend who saved her. A stunning novel—Frangello's broken characters live in a world of terror and redemption, of magnificent sadness and beauty.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616203498
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
02/04/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
543,280
File size:
2 MB

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What People are saying about this

author of "The Time Traveler's Wife" Audrey Niffenegger

"A Life in Men is a terrific book , a tender story of friendship, and a frank story of a young woman's adventures with an assortment of oddly funny, violent, and quirky men. It's intense and beautifully written." --Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife

author of "The Still Point of the Turning World" Emily Rapp

“Gina Frangello’s luminous novel is deeply human, darkly funny, seriously sexy; it brims with artistry and intelligence and heart . . . Frangello illuminates the ways in which life itself is an illusion, but a grand and beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliant one.” --Emily Rapp, author of The Still Point of the Turning World

author of "We Only Know So Much" Elizabeth Crane

“Frangello delivers truth in the form of brave, purposeful, masterful prose.” --Elizabeth Crane, author of We Only Know So Much

author of "This Bright River" Patrick Somerville

“An epic tour de force capturing a woman’s entire life amid a world torn apart by terrorism and alienation, and ultimately, it is an exploration of what individual fulfillment means in such a world, and how grief, identity, sexuality, and responsibility intersect.” --Patrick Somerville, author of This Bright River

author of "Once Upon a River" Bonnie Jo Campbell

“A joyful, ambitious novel that is also an adventure traversing three continents, a meditation on love, sex, and, most important, friendship, which can overcome time, distance, and even death.” Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River

Meet the Author

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Gina Frangello is a cofounder of Other Voices Books and the editor of the fiction section at The Nervous Breakdown. She is also the author of one previous novel and a collection of short stories. She lives in Chicago. Her website is www.ginafrangello.com.

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A Life in Men: A Novel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
I’d have to say I’m not really used to A LIFE IN MEN, unless we’re sitting around discussing football, or Breaking Bad, or Kansas being whacked from the NCAA Tournament. But you’ve gotta start somewhere, and I rather enjoy usurping the occasional insight about the fairer, more complicated sex. The ones who really do make life worth living, even if I’m occasionally left in the dark, sleeping on the sofa, or forced to change my wardrobe for the second time that day. You see, men like to think we’re in charge, but smart men know the real story. We’re only in charge if our wives grant us knighthood, but again, the smart ones don’t complain too much, because we know the benefits are normally pretty good. This novel certainly had its share of benefits, but it felt more like a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, the language nearly caused me to drift off, floating freely in the otherwise complicated universe, as my hand darted around my face, the characters felt lifelike and real and complicated and motivated. On the other hand, I managed to lose myself a time or two over the course of this tale, I had trouble completing the race, and I nearly stumbled my way toward the finish line. But I wanted to like it. The realness of it all left me more than a little depressed, as I slammed my fist against my chest, and contemplated the difficulties of being a woman. Which tended to scare the hell out of me just a bit, if we’re being perfectly honest here. Because with women, even friendships are extremely complicated, and let’s face it, my brain just doesn’t work that way. I like simplicity, and in fact, there are times I even crave it like crack or chocolate or copulation. What made this story a bit difficult for me to follow was the timeline at times. Maybe I’m just a simple man, but I tend to appreciate a more linear flow to my tale. If you don’t need it, or want it, you’ll probably be a bit happier with this story than I was. And that’s okay. We don’t have to agree on everything, but it’d be nice if we could agree once in a while. As for the rating, we’ll call it Even Steven, and we’ll both move on with our lives. I received this book for free through NetGalley. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is deep and thought provoking. I really enjoyed it but because it is dark it took me a while to finish.
Flamingo_Book_Club More than 1 year ago
After completing 130 pages of this novel, I was not invested in either the story or the characters. In addition, I found the author's timeline and character jumping as a literary device to be irritating, illogical and unhelpful to the telling of the story because it completely disrupted any progression that the reader may have made. I agree with Robert Downs that the story would have benefitted from a more linear progression. I jumped to the epilogue to see if there was any improvement at the end and, sadly, it appeared to be more of the same.