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A Life in Men

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,115 ratings  ·  172 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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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  1,115 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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Nov 26, 2013 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
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
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
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.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: rumpus-book-club
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
Michelle Gragg
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: must-avoid
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
Leah Murphy
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
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
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
the story, the writing, the interconnectedness = great. i'm gonna have a hard time putting this one down, finished and all. ...more
The story got so draggy is the first half. It started to pick up in the middle and then become draggy again towards the end. Also the lack of Nix's perspective is such a shame. I would love to know more what's inside her head after the incident, after she went back to London, instead we have seen her from other people's perspective. Mary is just so insufferable. She's nothing but a spoiled and selfish girl with or without her illness. I don't like how she used her illness as an excuse to treat o ...more
May 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
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,
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have to say, I was kind of embarrassed to be seen reading this book on the train. But I had read a good review of it somewhere and was feeling the girly friendship story for the first half of the book. I thought I could live a little vicariously through this chick traveling all over the world and apparently having sultry love affairs one every continent. Well, the story turned out to have a sad terminal illness side, but for awhile even that didn't spoil the fun. However, the second half of th ...more
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Kate Maruyama
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jack Waters
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014

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
Elizabeth Trundle
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've been thinking about this book a lot since I finished reading it. It rolls from one pivotal experience in a young woman's life to another, effortlessly, showing with great heart and expressiveness the reactions she is having to the relationships that accompany each stage of her life. Mary, the main character, is also battling a serious illness. I went back and read a book of Frangello's short stories pretty much the minute I finished the novel.
Just wanted a little bit more of that intensity,
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gina Frangello weaves together the personal and collective stories of the characters she creates and the readers. The unique narrative structures that threads one story from the past, the starting point for all the other stories, builds suspense and emotional depth. Frangello roots the narrative real life tragedies that creates links between our own lives and those of the characters. As each character shows us their own view of the unfolding of these lives, Frangello infuses the story with insig ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Amy B
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars for me. It was a slow start and I almost gave up on this, but I'm glad I stuck with it. The main character can be both sympathetic and unlikable at the same time which was frustrating but it worked in the end. ...more
Rachel Chiapparine
Aug 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
My first Did Not Finish book of the year, This book is one of the worst most confusing books that I have ever read. It felt to me like falling down a rabbit hole that made no sense.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I always have trouble rating books where I find the main character unlikeable. This book never fully got through to me, though I did like the way things were wrapped up in the end.
Tammy Matthews
Jan 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Eat Pray Love but I guess the twist is this privileged white woman happens to be really sick. At times seeming too indulgent in its beautifully tragic ill girl narrative but with equal doses of self-awareness thrown in. Frangello is a smart writer. There are some wonderful, insightful, poignant passages. But man, Mary is a shallow twat. I couldn’t stand her and my inner prude is fully turning up a nose at her apparent goal of screwing her way around the world. Here’s the self-awareness part: she ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this is one of those reads where i hesitate to really put my feelings about it on the page, largely because i get that this book won't be for everyone, but i'd feel like anyone who really disagreed with my feelings about it would effectively be judging me. this isn't a book about me, mind you; but it's a book in which i recognize behaviours that i myself have fallen victim to, almost, and a book in which i can see people around me, pulled taut to the most extreme versions of themselves, and put ...more
Maria Regina
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book expecting an upbeat, Thelma-and-Louise style romp through Europe. I was never more pleasantly surprised. Though not the breezy beach read I was anticipating, A Life in Men paints a complex, thrilling, and heartbreaking portrait of a young woman's experiences with romance, grief, and terminal illness.

Gina Frangello's characters are some of the most dynamic and compelling that I've read. Even the small actors have significant arcs that occur in the span of a few pages. I fou
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: serious
I had so many mixed feelings about this book that I finished not really knowing how I felt. As the synopsis will tell you, two childhood best friends almost seem to reverse roles when Mary, the one diagnosed with CF and not expected to live a full life, is alive many years after her wild-child friend Nix dies in a plane explosion. The traveling aspect of the story was wonderful. I loved the vivid descriptions of the many adventures Mary had and how she immersed herself in so many different cultu ...more
Vicki Dee Rock
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first start reading the book, I was challenged by the writing style and the jumping back and forth in the timeline. However, it grew on me and I wound up really liking this book. The characters are complicated and multi-dimensional, and you wind up getting very vested in the main character, Mary and her life and relationships. I got to a point where I didn't want to put the book down, and felt that immense sadness when I finished it. There are a lot of synchronicities that occur thru out ...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

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