Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

A Life in Men

Availability: Ready to download

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 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 But by the time their visit to Greece was over, Nix had withdrawn from their friendship, and Mary had no idea why.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.


Compare
Ads Banner

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 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 But by the time their visit to Greece was over, Nix had withdrawn from their friendship, and Mary had no idea why.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.

30 review for A Life in Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    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 ye 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 their trip to Greece. My issue with the past is the descriptions of Nix and what a horrible friend she seemed to be. After finding out about Mary's disease, she sleeps with Mary's boyfriend. Because as she stated, '[Mary's disease] verified her virtue, her preeminence over whatever slutty irrelevance Nix possessed.' I really struggled after that whole bit but Nix seemed to be remorseful so I kept giving it a chance. My issue with the present story is that things were way too long and descriptive. I also had issue with Mary's decision to live life to the fullest had everything to do with sleeping with various men. Then there was this line '...she had also found a budding awareness that she could not rely on her health to permit stable breadwinning - that her life, no matter how she sliced it, would have to involve either protracted reliance on her parents, or a long-term liaison with a man.' My issue centers around the fact that when she first traveled to Europe and she was living in a hostel of sorts with a bunch of different men, she insisted on attempting to hide her disease from everyone so that they didn't start looking at her differently. I get that. But by doing that, she was neglecting her treatment because she didn't have any alone time so she got worse quickly until the whole ugly truth was revealed to one of her roommates. But even after that she insisted on still keeping it a secret from her current 'long-term liaison'. The chapters were entirely way too long especially considering that each would flip back and forth between past and present. By the time the next chapter came around I had already forgotten what had happened in the previous one. I don't know. I keep thinking I should set it aside for now and try and come back to it but this just didn't end up being like I had hoped it would. There's nothing wrong with traveling the world and having a bunch of liaison's, it just made it seem kind of pathetic that that was the only thing she thought to do before she died. I was expecting a much deeper storyline. Maybe that came later in the book, but I'll never know.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 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 long (especially that interminable final scene at the hospital). Nevertheless, it offered great escape--I found it hard to put down--with vivid descriptions, interesting characters clearly drawn, and not a few very interesting insights. Unlike others, I found the quality of the writing to be a little uneven, in particular, too many overused heightened vocabulary words (must people always "procure"? Can't they ever just "get" something?). Overall, however, "A Life in Men" is a great addition to the modern canon of female "coming of age" novels. Kudos to Frangello

  3. 4 out of 5

    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 thi 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. Cross-posted at Robert's Reads

  4. 5 out of 5

    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 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 interesting character, when we're given her internal monologue. Mary is alternately ungrateful, petulant, and fatalistic. She seems to know this, but it doesn't make her more interesting to read. The idea that Mary lives "a life in men," because she is unable to be entirely self-sufficient (due to her terminal cystic fibrosis) is an interesting one, but ultimately it doesn't live up to its promise. She flits from man to man, either for physical assistance, financial support, emotional connectedness or sexual release (usually more than one of these, but all predominantly self-serving). Two of her suitors are kind; she's the least interested in remaining with them. And it all just makes you want to shake her by the shoulders and tell her to get it together. She doesn't seem to believe any of the men's needs are as legitimate or worthy of attention as her (presumably because she's dying and they aren't?). We get into the men's perspectives more than Nix's, which is also frustrating, because most of them are as unsympathetic and/or as uninteresting in terms of insight as Mary is. I was also as ready to discard them when the time case as Mary was. Toward the end of the book she worries that she hasn't made enough of her life, that she's squandered it by traveling to the ends of the earth -- Kenya and London and Mexico and Amsterdam and Morocco -- in pursuit of her own selfish ends. And then she gets pissed when that worry isn't contested. It isn't contested because it's true. It's exactly my assessment of her after having plodded my way through this book. I'm rating this at two-stars because I found the main character insufferable, which made reading the book feel like an interminable chore. But writing-wise, it's a four-star book. I'd read another of Frangello's novels in the future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    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 person who arrives in Africa for one of thesecelebratenonsense: 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 person who arrives in Africa for one of these two reasons ends up remaining for the other reason entirely. Africa can change your mind, and whatever you thought you knew of life and death can easily be switched around. You cannot choose whether this land will inhabit you, change everything you thought you knew. You can only arrive and do your best to keep an open mind. The problem is, everything Africa has to teach involves a body count. All roads here lead to something dead. So, if you were hoping not to think of Death at all, not to let him learn your address, not to enter into either friendship or battle with his forces but, rather, to trick him into not recognizing your name, then you are in the wrong place entirely. You should have stayed home.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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--fascina 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    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 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 major problems with the book too: (1) It was just too long. Again, I know this seems like an immature complaint to make, but just because you can be that descriptive, doesn't mean you should. There were so many unnecessary details or drawn out scenes; (2) The author should have used chapters more effectively to keep the reader interested. The 'chapter' divisions in the book were often in chunks of 75-100 pages, which is just too much. Especially, when flashing back between past and present. You would completely forget what had happened in one time versus another; (3) Too many happy coincidences or twists that were intended to shock you; (4) too dramatic at times; (5) a few things that were inconsistent about characters and events - almost like she had left something on the editing room floor that was actually important. Reading the notes of the author and acknowledgments at the end made me really sad that I didn't like this book more. I liked the author's motivation and idea. I just wish she had been more discerning about editing the book in a way that focused on the story and not just on her ability to write. I would be curious to read a short story or something else by this writer, because if one thing was clear it was that she really can write.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Gragg

    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 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 have commitment to what story she was telling and so the book ended up being too long with too many different stories. She couldn't commit to the characters in first couple of hundred pages so they seemed to be underdeveloped and in genuine. Also she couldn't decide if this book had something to say or if it was chick lit fluff. For these reasons I struggled to read it. But about 250 pages in I did get interested. There is some value to this book and I feel like maybe this is a story written by an author too early in a writing career. Where if she had waited she may have been able to decide what story she was writing and how much substance she wanted it to have. My biggest complaints were with the main character. She is very selfish and unlikable. She is the definition of white privilege and upper middle class. But she is meant to be the heroine. Throughout the book she does not grow or develop depth. It is hard to root for someone so stagnant and so oblivious when it is obvious the author didn't want her to come off that way. I am glad to be done with this book. It is a relief. This book was worth finishing but not worth recommending.

  9. 4 out of 5

    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 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 shape each of their entire futures. When Nix convinces Mary to join her on a summer trip to the Greek Isles, meant to bring them closer together and show Mary a world that neither of them believes she will have much time to see, unthinkable events transpire that drive a wedge between them. They part at the end of their trip, Mary back to college and medical treatments in Ohio, Nix to her study abroad in London, not knowing it will be last time they ever see each other. Flying on the tails of her lost friend, Mary embarks on her own journey to London, seeking things she does not yet know, and for a time even becoming her friend – assuming her name, and living vicariously through how she thinks Nix would have done. Mary’s journey beyond a boarding house in London takes her throughout the world and all walks of life, from rural New England to the wilds of Africa and beyond, and through the series of men who come in and out of her life and help shape not only her path but both who she is and who she thinks she is. Through the eyes of a young woman who knows her time on earth is shorter than many, she struggles with finding both her place in the world and the place that the people in her life have, and should or should not have, and in the end searching for what ultimate does, or does not matter. “Sex is kicking death in the ass while singing” – Charles Bukowski MY Low Down If you knew your time was more limited than most, how do you think you would live that time? Do you think the other people in your life would understand and support you, even if they didn’t agree with you? With unique and engrossing style, this thought provoking and stirring story makes you want to scream, cry, think and trek around the world in a bat of an eye. A Life in Men not only forces thought about these questions, but does so from the intriguing perspective of breaking down a woman’s adult life by the men that helped shaped each part of it, and in turn the many different parts of her. Seemingly always torn between love and sex, now and then and what is to come, and whether she feels like being “herself” or her more adventurous best friend, Mary manages to pack more into her shortened life than many who will get two or three times the number of years to do so, and Gina Frangello helps you love her even when you want to hate her. When she disregards her health, you want to scream at her for a moment, but then you start to think about whether you would do the same thing – live life safe so that it lasts longer, or live life well and accept that it may make it a bit shorter? When she falls into bed with men she probably shouldn’t, you want to shake her and ask what the heck she’s doing – and then you think “but would I do that too if I could?” The men in her life are fathers, brothers, lovers and friends, all with distinct and interesting personalities and histories. Some provide love and companionship, others provide outlets for escape, but all have a place that add definition to Mary’s journey. For a time, Mary also continues her communication with her lost friend, via her “Nix Notebook”. This one sided communication reveals more of the inner workings behind her actions and choices, giving a little hint of the first person POV that helps both understand her more personally and question her all the more. When Mary reaches a point where she feels she needs to break herself away from the Nix Notebook, she is symbolically shedding the skin she had been living in and accepting that she truly can LIVE on her own, without the psychological tie to “what would Nix do?” While she seems to succeed in leaving that part of her life behind, she ultimately realizes that she can’t let go of anything – she can choose what she dwells on and what she puts behind her, but at the end it will all be an element of the glue the holds her life together and makes her the person she becomes. The only true downfall of this story was that we weren’t given the opportunity to know Nix better – the small introduction and periodic appearances just don’t quite add up to enough of a connection to truly care about her or the place in the story. This disconnect made the bridge between Nix and Mary’s reliance on and influence from her seem shaky at times, as though she was entered as a bit of an afterthought that was never allowed to fully partake in the story. The connection and theme of her is there and makes sense, but could have definitely been stronger and had more of an impact had the chance been there to really feel something for her, and in turn her relationship with Mary. I also would have loved to see the two girls connected more fully when Mary spends her time in London, rather than the brief bits and pieces we are given.

  10. 4 out of 5

    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 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 through a series of events; each snapshot or chapter places the protagonist of the novel, Mary, in a particular county, in the company of a particular man. Mary has become a world-traveler in her attempts to distance herself from her past and the reality of her declining health. Mary has cystic fibrosis, a disease that, by all rights, should have claimed her life prior to adulthood. With the constant uncertainty of her future looming dangerously in front of her, Mary continuously reinvents herself in different atmospheres, in the company of various lovers and male influences. As important as the men are to Mary, there is no one more important than her childhood best friend and surrogate sister, Nicole or “Nix.” Nicole is the outgoing, experienced yin to Mary’s fragile, naïve yang. The overarching event that defines the characters' relationships throughout the rest of the book is a college vacation to Greece in 1988, and this trip is frequently revisited and redefined as the novel progresses. This is a trip that will leave the girls and their relationship forever changed. It is difficult to go into description without giving away some of the book’s surprising developments and revelations. Suffice it to say, I look forward to conversing with others about the book’s complicated vision of female sexuality and friendship in today’s modern world plagued with inexplicable horrors such as terminal illness and terrorism. The novel is a rich look at what it means to be a woman, and, moreover, what it means to be a friend and lover. Five stars. A definitely re-read should the opportunity present itself in the future.

  11. 4 out of 5

    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 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 as Frangello alternates between flashing back to the two friends' fateful Greek getaway to Mary's life after Nix's death. You cannot help but be inspired by Mary, who despite being diagnosed with a terminal illness is determined to squeeze as much out of life as she can: She travels to London, South Africa, Japan, the Netherlands, Mexico, etc. Most of the time she succeeds in living life to the fullest while still searching for meaning or maybe even peace with her circumstances. There are a few times you want to smack her for being reckless or selfish, but she is a fully developed character and that goes with the territory. The men she encounters are equally fleshed out despite their crazy plumage: an acrobat, Spanish pilot, Southern drifter, dreamy doctor, polygamist, gay artist, and more. Toward the end, I grew weary of the coda, which was prolonged in one part and a bit bizarre in another. What really tied it up neatly was a never-delivered letter. Its message to live life on your own terms and to honor the real you— not the you everyone else thinks you are— is quite poignant and the perfect conclusion. Sadly, I read that Frangello's best friend died shortly after this book was published. As she says in her dedication "For those sad times life imitates art." At the very least, it is a beautiful paean to her the life of her friend.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dc

    the story, the writing, the interconnectedness = great. i'm gonna have a hard time putting this one down, finished and all.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Virna

    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 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 other people badly. No character development at all from the beginning till the end. I can't wait how they are going to do it in the TV Show, because the only thing that can make me rooting for Marry is if Kristen Stewart going to play her HAHAHA.

  14. 4 out of 5

    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, 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, I found myself confused every once in awhile, wondering where in Mary's world we exactly were. Second, Mary herself. She is infuriating and incredibly frustrating and I found myself completely shocked with her behavior at times. Taking full advantage of men seems to be her modus operandi and yet she still has manages to find a sweet, wonderful and kind man who loves her to no end and she's still not happy. Third, the relationship between her and Nix, her best friend seems less like a friendship and more like an unbearable relationship that Nix stuck with because Mary was sick and all her other friends left her. I want to like Mary. I want to understand her but I can't. Her actions towards every single person in her life, including her sweet and caring adoptive parents who only love her and want the best for her are just awful. Anyways, moving on...the story itself was long and extremely drawn out to the point where I skipped full pages simply because nothing relevant or important was happening and I knew I wouldn't miss a thing. Sure enough, I didn't. Like I said, I had hoped to like this book because the synopsis made it seem like it'd be a great read. Boy was it wrong. I only wish I had read the reviews on here before I bought the book. :-/

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alina

    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 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 the book becomes one big huge coincidence where every character from the first half miraculously meets again years later. My ability to believe in this story was stretched thin by chance meeting after chance meeting. And the third person weepy narration of the main girl's illness started to feel like I was being hit over the head to feel sympathy for her. The cherry on top though was the strange turn toward terrorism and Muslim/Jewish relations that seems to come out of nowhere at the very end. I think the author got a little over ambitious and should have kept this story about relatable people and their inner lives. Wouldn't necessarily recommend this one, but perhaps a different reader might enjoy the weird ride.

  16. 5 out of 5

    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 pag 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 something was revealed that I didn't see coming (similar to how Gone Girl threw me for a loop partway through). I spent the last 150 pages thinking I had figured out how the book was going to end but I was wrong. I couldn't stop reading because I had to find out (and I am not a person who flips ahead). The challenges to this book are the deep content as well as the flash forwards and back, you have to keep track of a lot of characters but the book draws you in so you can't put it down and then the characters aren't a problem! Wow! Plus the author note at the end is super touching!

  17. 5 out of 5

    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 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 broad spectrum of life shown through each narrator’s point of view, including those little jumps into the future, Frangello leaves her reader well fed indeed. And the whirl around Mary, who is a catalyst in so many lives, becomes something bigger, illustrating way in which we bump up against people on this planet, and the very fiber of reality changes and morphs and grows richer as we do so. for more, go to: http://annotationnation.wordpress.com...

  18. 4 out of 5

    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 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 birth father, marrying and then disregarding her marriage, traveling all over the world. In some ways I feel like this book tried to stretch too far and ended up not quite reaching anything because of it. I didn't hate this book, but I do wish I'd spent all that time reading something less meandering. "Sometimes, things simply happen too late. Sometimes, beautiful things are simply not what we want, no matter how badly we want to want them."

  19. 4 out of 5

    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 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 locale in the novel is its own world, as the characters seek and long for a fulfilling life and find sadness and joy along the way. There are enough twists to keep you reading, and you’ll want to stick through till the end for sure, as I was pleased with the payoff in the novel. I’ll have to read it again in a few years, since I wasn’t expecting to like the book as much as I did.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Trundle

    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 inte 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, I guess. I read a review that described A Life in Men as "epic" and "ferocious." That sounds about right.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    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 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 insight and humanity. I read this while traveling and felt inspired to live more adventurously, more presently, and with more gratitude.

  22. 5 out of 5

    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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy B

    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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Chiapparine

    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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Matthews

    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 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 admits that she’s done nothing with her life so she engages in lots of sex to get her rocks off. That’s all she’s got. And oh joy we get to jump into the heads of several of her lovers who think about bending her over every third thought. (Like seriously could we not? Maybe men do think that way but do I have to read about it?) Or we get to watch as they have semi-consensual sex with her exhausted sick body. When not delving into pervy inner thoughts we get to watch the characters lounge around an apartment. Lounge around a beach. Lounge around a market looking at all the exotic brown people. Culminating in the opportunity to watch as our tragic heroine (pfft) parades around a foreign country and knowingly puts her life at risk so some men will have to be burdened with dealing with her body in crisis. Yeah girl I wish you died on that plane instead of your friend too. Speaking of Nix (yet another romanticized tragically damaged white girl), the flashes to the Greece storyline are the most effective part of the book to me. The way it unfolds is so chilling - that part, at least, was effectively done.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sylvia

    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 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 under a microscope in blaring light, to a point where there is no hiding. as an exercise in writing, first, this is a fucking sensational thing. everything is stripped incredibly naked; the ugliness of a lot of human emotion is put frontal, so there's no dodging the fact that the characters in this are all, in a lot of ways, horrible. but aren't we all? frangello's use of language and structure are both sublime, both in terms of how they establish the characters and how they flex the narrative. i think that a lot of the critique (which i can't honestly bring myself to read) will be on two fronts: the first being that mary is a pretty unlikeable character, and the second being that a lot of what happens in the book in terms of sheer plot is implausible. to the first, i just roll my eyes. yeah, she's unlikeable. like a lot of people are. like a lot of women, are, even! and, and i swear that this is what will make people uncomfortable about just how selfish and naive and inconsiderate and reckless she is, even really sick people, who you're not supposed to think of as assholes because you're constantly cautious of whether or not it's appropriate to consider someone who's got one foot in the grave (or suffers from a significant disability, or what have you) pretty much a loathsome human being. it's the most essentializing of all ways to read mary; it reduces her to her disease in a roundabout way, where the implication is that she cannot be effectively as horrible as a lot of young women undoubtedly are, because it makes the reader uncomfortable to dislike her. the fybrosis should've made her an angel! i'm not siding with that. what we get is everything on blast: the naivete, the selfishness, the reckless careening towards a demise, where the common sense is, "jesus christ, you've got a nice husband and the possibility to live longer if you do less of what you do, and all you're doing is screwing around the world (in the most literal of senses) as if you're chasing death". yeah. she's not a lovely person. but she's also a person who at age 17 was handed a death sentence and then somehow told to just deal with that; a person who was handed that death sentence and then was almost simultaneously robbed from the biggest constant in her life, in two extreme ways. what frangello does is set mary up as someone who is desperately running a race against time to try to uncover who the fuck she even is. i think it's impossible for anyone who has an indeterminate amount of time to figure that out, and who isn't confronted with the abandonment of everything safe and familiar at the same time (ie, her parents turn into her medical team, her best friend abandons her and then turns out to not even have been who she always thought she was, or was she?), to really exercise any particular form of judgement at mary, over what choices she makes and what motivates them. i walked away from this book feeling particularly blessed to not be in that kind of position, where i can ignore my own mortality and let life just sort of develop because, hey, finite or not, there's plenty of it going around. i can't imagine what kind of person i would be if that was ripped away from me, and otherwise normal events need to all be special so that i can say that i've lived. added to this was the late reveals in the story of nix, and i got to a place where i felt about as entitled as mary seemed at the outset: that i'd never had anything so fundamentally change me as a person that i had to not only learn myself all over again, but had to figure out a way to do so in as short a timespan as possible, because it didn't seem like there was much left otherwise. the idea that unlikeable characters make a book not worth reading is just appalling to me; i'm not here for that kind of fictionalization of reality, and mary feels all the more real to me for all the incredibly stupid and childish shit she gets up to, all to avoid having to grow up past nix and find out that she's not at all who she thought she was, either. the second complaint will probably be, as noted, about how many implausible reconnections happen in the book, or, alternatively, about how a book supposedly all about women is really mostly about the men in their lives. i honestly could care less about either; the world is a smaller place than we think it is, but also, a good non-speculative novel is effectively just a realistic "what if". the what if here is about seeing people again, odds against odds, and growing around them. it's about how some things are inescapable, and given that that is the message that frangello attempts to convey, the plot serves that message beautifully. the multitude of points of view, including the sparse density of nix in and out of the main chapters, simply work to build up the idea that mary isn't one set, static thing; that she is an ongoing discovery, and that it is both unreasonable and utterly understandable that any mention of her disease flips switches in the minds of those around her, turning her from one thing to a completely separate one. they all repaint her constantly, as she repaints herself, and it is a whirlwind to watch it happen over and over again, as her lifespan shortens and time is quite literally running out, though in an almost hidden way, until the end. this will stick with me for a very long time, and it will be one of those books that i wouldn't tell a lot of people to read, because not only would i feel judged by their reaction to it - but god, would i judge them for their reaction to it, if it isn't something along the lines of above. this was a wonderful read. harrowing, but beautifully executed, turning the mundane into the extraordinary, as it should be when you've only got so long left to enjoy the mundane.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maria Regina

    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 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 found myself considering Mary a real friend whom I yelled at and rooted for during her entire journey. Beyond the characters, I loved the vivid backdrop of European and African destinations and the interplay between Mary's thoughts and the rhythm of London or the Kenyan wilderness. Frangello writes these locations with confidence and ease, as if the streets of Morocco were her own backyard. I recommend this book not as a coming-of-age story, although I fully identified with Mary as a young female character. Instead, I suggest A Life in Men for its deep dive into a myriad of issues, from religion and identity to life and death. Frangello forces her readers to face difficult questions head-on, most importantly, "How do you want others to view you?" and "What makes a life truly well-lived?"

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    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 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 cultures and experiences. The sad and frustrating part for me was perhaps that she felt the need to try to find so much of herself by the men she shared her life with. And that there was always this sense of trying to fill a void left by a friend taken too soon, and by a life in which you've been condemned with a diagnosis you cannot shake. I think all of us hope to live a life without regrets, regardless of how long or short our lives may be. I was never sure if Mary was living the life she wanted or if she was always seeking Nix, always doing what someone with an eventual terminal diagnosis is expected to do. Sure, adventures can be great, but so can finding and sharing our love with someone who truly completes us.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Dee Rock

    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 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 the book, and I could see how some people might have an issue with this. I didn't. Life is filled with synchronicities and little miracles, and we are all interwoven with each other and with big and little life events. I highly recommend this book!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.