A Life in Men

Algonquin. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781616201630. pap. $14.95. F
In the mid-1980s, when an American college student, Mary, is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, she escapes to Greece with the only person who doesn't treat her with pity: her best friend, Nicole. In a twist of fate, Nicole's life ends prematurely, and Mary tries to outrun her emotional burdens by living hard and reinventing herself in London, where she is drawn to men who lead risky lives. Intense yet meditative, Frangello's second novel (after My Sister's Continent) asks how we would live if we knew our life was going to be cut short. Mary lives out an "entitled hedonism." Even after she marries a doctor who loves her, she is drawn back to a life of chasing adventure, and the one man who never treated her like a fragile object.
VERDICT Frangello's sophisticated writing vividly brings to life the settings of Mary's exotic travels, including Mexico, Amsterdam, and Morocco; she smoothly streams the consciousness of her complex characters in the third-person point of view, which alternates among Mary and her lovers. Ambitious in breadth and scope, this work will appeal to fans of Barbara Kingsolver and those who like being immersed in foreign settings.
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