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A Life in Men: A Novel

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  719 ratings  ·  140 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Algonquin Books
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Robert
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
...more
Bonnie
May 14, 2015 Bonnie marked it as dnf
DNF @ pg. 80

I never quite got into this book and it was a chore reading the little bit I did manage. There would occasionally be a section that interested me but those were few and far between. The summary describes how Mary and Nix take a vacation to Greece after Mary was diagnosed with a life threatening disease. By the end of their vacation Mary and Nix are no longer friends. Intriguing. Flash forward to the present and Nix has passed away and we have Mary returning to Europe 3 years after th
...more
Diane
While I agree with much of the criticism leveled against this book by members of Goodreads, it seems some readers are forgetting that the protagonist of "A Life in Men" is in her late twenties and early thirties, a time typically devoted to "accumulating life experience" and lacking in the depth, maturity, and perspective that come more often with age. Yes, Mary is insufferable, but I see her shallowness more as desperation, and desperation is interesting. Like others, I thought the book was too ...more
stacia
This isn't really a two-star book in terms of Frangello's writing. At sentence-level, she does really beautiful work. Some of the earlier scenes (both in real-time and flashback) are suspenseful and interesting, so I was very excited to read on. It lags in the middle, narratively. And the decision for it to be predominantly Mary's story turns out to be disappointing. I was hoping that it would alternative points of view more between Mary's best friend, Nix, and herself. Nix is the more interesti ...more
Anna
Life's too short for this "sick white girl finds herself through travel" nonsense:

Dearest Nix,

Here is what I know so far. Death is cheap in Africa. People come here for one of two reasons: (1) to recognize, even
celebrate their own insignificance amid the heartless, beautiful vastness, or (2) to convince themselves of their mastery of Africa’s majesty and malevolence by taking its picture, pinning it down on a page, assuring themselves it is something wholly separate from them.

Sometimes, a pers
...more
Amanda
I reeeeallly wanted to like this book. And there were parts where I would start to think that it was growing on me. On the plus side, I liked the author's idea of telling a woman's story through the men that had come in and out of it. Even as an independent/feminist type woman, I wasn't offended at all. Mary was never a victim of a man. She chose the men she wanted to be with for specific times and purposes. So defining time frames of her life based on who she was with made sense.

But I had some
...more
Julia Fierro
A Life in Men is sure to be one of my favorite 2014 reads. The characters are complex, authentic and captivating. I heard Stephen Elliot of the Rumpus say, at one of Frangello's readings, that her characters lived without skin, and I felt that way reading this book.
Frangello allows the reader a full look at her characters' flaws and vulnerabilities and strengths. She exposes them, but always with compassion.
I also found the premise of the book--it takes place in 8 or so countries--fascinating.
Anna Janelle
I was thrilled to receive this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program in exchange for an honest review. Thankfully, it far exceeded my expectations, dashing any preconceived notions or fears that "A Life in Men" would be just another droll chick-lit novel. In truth, it was so much more - perfect fodder for book clubs looking for a novel that could potentially generate some heated discussions on friendship, love, loss, female sexuality, illness and terrorism.

The book is told thro
...more
Leah Kautz
THE Low Down

Mary and Nix are the typical opposites-attract, childhood best friends - Mary is a sensible, sweet, loyal; Nix has a wandering spirit with a hunger for the unknown, may it be small town Ohio Friday night or a trek across the Atlantic, nothing is too small for her to make it an adventure. When Mary is diagnosed with an ultimately terminal illness at 17, neither of them can foresee the effect it will have the worldviews of them both, and how these changes will manifest themselves and s
...more
Nicole
Admittedly, I would have never read this book if @KierstenS had not deposited the book directly into my hands. The back summary (two best friends: one terminally ill and one unexpectedly killed) would have scared me away, and then I would have truly missed out.

"A Life in Men" does deal with some heavy stuff. Beyond loss, it also explores sexual assault, drugs, abandonment, etc. However the book is, surprisingly, not a downer the way you would imagine. Each new chapter brings a sense of adventure
...more
Michelle Ryan
This story is actually about a girl who only knows depth in sex. But it has very little sex in it. It is about a spoiled American who feels that her life is traumatic and wishes to travel to expand her worldview but is incapable of selflessness or seeing beyond herself. She uses every person she comes in contact with. It is too long. And it is frustrating to see so little depth.
I wanted to like this book very much. But I didn't . I think the problem with this book was that the author did not ha
...more
Kelly
Sheesh. This book took up a lot of my time. About a woman with cystic fibrosis, who is outliving the typical time frame, this book sort of plays with the idea of living in the moment. Almost in the reverse. Always expecting to die young, and living her life in that way, she avoids the things that most of us can't get away from, like planning for our futures rather than enjoying today. There's a lot more in there also; living through the tragic death of her best friend, meeting her disappointing ...more
Tracey
Read this review and more over at My Library Card

A copy of this book was received through NetGalley for a honest review


i need to give this book more stars. more stars for this amazing book that has kept me from sleep these pass few days. i was going into the book thinking that i was getting a novel about a girl's sexual awakening and what i got was much deeper and meaningful and devastating and real. the cover is totally deceptive, wrapping the book in a feel good vibe. the title, however, is be
...more
David
This is an extremely rich novel both in characters and in emotion. The emotions swing frequently and sometimes get kind of mashed together, just like in life. Given the subject matter, I expected it to be a lot more heavy handed than it was. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.
Dc Lozano
the story, the writing, the interconnectedness = great. i'm gonna have a hard time putting this one down, finished and all.
Athornton
Wow, amazing read. The content itself is difficult on many levels but the story of friendship that runs under, behind and through the story is amazing! So glad my BFF encouraged me to read this. I was up until almost midnight last night, on a school night, reading because I couldn't stop.

I loved the changing narrator voices, at points I don't even think I realized the narrator had changed, especially near the end. This book took me on twists and turns I didn't see coming, like at page 100 where
...more
Jack Waters

I had to pace myself through the narrative, since Gina Frangello wove plenty of intricacies w/r/t characters, locales, narrators, and chronology. It was surely a balancing act of significant proportion, and I think she pulled it off well. It is definitely a book to read all at once -- if you were to put it down for too long, I’d imagine it’d be tough to piece together the narrative arcs.

It’s too easy to judge this book by its title or cover alone -- the book is well-written, and each distinct l
...more
Susan
The title and the cover of this book make it look kind of like chick lit, a beach read. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, there are two characters who are beautiful young women. And yes, they do travel around, have adventures, and engage in lots of explicit sex. But at base the story is about life and death itself. It's about a woman who tries to find out who she is and how to live life to its fullest, all while knowing that her lifespan will be severely limited. It's edgy and ve ...more
Downward
This book traces a woman's life through her experience with men: her lovers, her estranged father, her brother, her friends, her inbetweens. These friendships are also filtered through her experience as someone who suffers from cystic fibrosis, the death of her childhood bestfriend, and a night of tragedy spent years ago with that childhood bestfriend. The way it does this, however, seems to conflate womanhood itself with friendship, sickness, and tragedy. And while one could argue that the over ...more
Shivani
I wanted to like this book. I desperately wanted to believe that the book that I had purchased and had such high hopes for would get better, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm not even halfway through and the only reason I'm continuing to read it is because I hate not finishing a book, no matter how terrible. However, I may have to quit with this book.

For starters, this book is entirely too long and the fact that each chapter is 50+ pages long AND jumps between two different time frames,
...more
Glenda
Gina Frangello's A LIFE IN MEN is an intense read, a tour de force that lingers in thought long after the last page. The story tells the tale of two best friends who although no longer part of one another's lives, nonetheless live imprisoned within the shadow of their past affection. Mary and Nix's friendship, formed in childhood, shapes the enduring parenthesis of their lives as young women - even after the friendship breaks in the aftermath of a disastrous college summer trip to Greece. Key co ...more
Larry Hoffer
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

If you were told you had a disease that would ultimately shorten your life, would you live your remaining days and/or years differently? Would you prize your happiness and fulfillment over others? These are just some of the questions addressed by Gina Frangello's A Life in Men, a beautifully written, compelling book that is both moving and a bit frustrating.

Mary and Nix were best friends since childhood, inseparable and fiercely loyal to each other. When Mary is diagnosed
...more
Victoria
A Life in Men by Gina Frangello was a book that I won from the early reviewers on librarything.com. I was very excited to get to read this, but once I started it was hard to get into the book normally I can read. Book in a few days but his took longer ...because I just could not get on board with it. I was going to stop , but since it was a book I won I felt I needed to give a chance...so I read and maybe 60% into it I started to like it and wanted to know what happened. I felt the book was all ...more
Amanda Yanez
2/17: This was a First Reads giveaway. Original review did not save, will rewrite later.

2/20: Because I won this in a First Reads giveaway, I really tried my best to finish it. I wanted to give up around page 60, but forced myself to keep going. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue after page 140.

Mary, the protagonist, received a late in life (age 17) diagnosis of cystic fibrosis and was only expected to live for a few more years. Her best friend, Nix (Nicole), obviously should have outlived
...more
Erin
This is a hard book to review. It is extremely well written and really grabbing, but it is such a dark and depressing novel. It opens with two girls, Nicole and Mary who go on vacation to the Greek Isles. They pick up two older men and get themselves in a bad situation. Because of Mary's virginity and terminal disease, Nicole sacrifices herself to them, which Mary is too self centered to figure out on her own. Nicole gets killed in the Lockerbie bombing and Mary spends her life wandering the wor ...more
Michelle
Beautifully written literary women's fiction. I would not necessarily recommend this to everyone as some parts are "thick" and hard to get through. It is not a light read. The author takes an interesting angle with childhood best friends-now-adults Mary and Nix. Mary has a terminal illness but as it turns out Nix dies first (not a spoiler). This in turn complicates Mary's feelings about her best friend not to mention her own mortality. Why is she still alive and Nix dead? Why was Nix pulling awa ...more
Cynthia Romanowski
"She has been lucky, almost unspeakably lucky. There are women who spend their entire lives in one town. Women who never finish high school, much less graduate school, who never have a friend like Nix to lose, much less other healing bonds like those she's found… There are women whose lives are spent waiting by the the phone, but although she was neither the most beautiful nor the most worthy, every man she has slept with loved her a least a little, even Eli, dear Eli, practicing for old age by ...more
Katie
Probably would rate this closer to 3.5 stars.

Gina Frangello's "A Life in Men" on the surface is the story of friendship between two girls, but dig deeper and it encompasses the wide range of relationships we make and break through our lives, the way love can sustain us and the way acts of violence can tear us asunder.

Nicole (Nix) and Mary are best friends. Two beautiful blonde American girls who have everything going for them. Except that's not true. Mary is very sick, having been diagnosed at
...more
Samuel
I have to confess to being immediately turned off by the title of the book, "A Life in Men," because it promised a woman who sought validation or life affirmation by the men in her life. But then I discovered that the main character was afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis and was pleasantly surprised and excited to see how this would effect her personality. The truth is it doesn't really, and this book reads like another tale of bored suburban kid hopping the globe and sleeping with exotic and foreig ...more
Kate Maruyama
Nalo Hopkinson gave a lecture at Antioch University Los Angeles in December of 2013 talking about how readers are “hungry ghosts,” yearning for the experiences of life. They want to be put inside a story that makes them feel as if they are in a real person, walking around inside a real experience. With Mary’s illness, her deeply felt experiences with sex, food and the richness of different locations as our characters travel from Greece to London to Mexico to Amsterdam to Morocco, and through the ...more
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Gina Frangello is the author of the collection Slut Lullabies (Emergency Press 2010) and the novel My Sister's Continent (Chiasmus 2006), which was selected as one of the top 10 books of that year by Las Vegas City Life and was a "Read This!" finalist for Spring 2006. For more than a decade, Gina edited the award-winning fiction literary magazine Other Voices, and in 2004 co-launched its book impr ...more
More about Gina Frangello...
Slut Lullabies My Sister's Continent Falling Backwards: Stories of Fathers and Daughters Other Voices (47: All Chicago Edition) Other Voices 39 (Fall/Winter 2003)

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“For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home. Places where lonely people can live in exile of their own lives—far from anything that was ever imagined for them. —SIMON VAN BOOY, Everything Beautiful Began After” 2 likes
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