cover image A Life in Men

A Life in Men

Gina Frangello. Algonquin, $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-61620-163-0

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