In the Chicago Tribune: Reviewing Charles Finch and Gina Frangello

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Thwarted by winter—as so many of us have been—I have found myself failing and flailing here on the ole blog as well. Here is one post designed to help correct a few recent gaps. Another post, planned for later today, will reflect on a new novel—Family Life by Akhil Sharma (W.W. Norton)—that I picked up at ALA Midwinter after one of the very kind people manning the Norton booth recognized me from my years and books ago with Norton. What an esteemed house that is, and how lucky I was to once be part of the family. Later this week I'll be blogging about The Patron Saint of Ugly, a forthcoming debut by Marie Manilla (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, another wonderful house and former home).

I will catch up. I promise. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on two new books by powerhouse writers: The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch, and A Life in Men by Gina Frangello. Both books have London, England, as a critical backdrop. Both reviews can be found in the pages of the Chicago Tribune. My review of A Life in Men, up this weekend, begins like this:
Love is brutalized throughout Gina Frangello's second novel, "A Life in Men." The pursuit of it, the act, the possibility. Love is what two young American women think they want, are perhaps even owed, but violence — premeditated, haphazard, self-inflicted — intervenes.

One young woman, Nicole (or Nix), will vanish. The other, her best friend, Mary, will live her life trying to collect every experience and many a man before the clock ticks out on her. In Mary's case, the clock is ticking fast: She has cystic fibrosis. Her skin tastes like salt. Her lungs fill with mucous. She survives with the help of all manner of medical paraphernalia. Sometimes it seems that she will not survive at all.


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