A Lifetime of Men, by Ciahnan Darrell

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Tolan has always let her mother have one secret—how she got that scar on her face—playing along with her mother’s game of inventing outlandish tales to explain the wound away. But when she finds a manuscript on her mother’s computer that promises to reveal the true story, Tolan only hesitates for a moment before curiosity compels her to read on.

She’s hoping for answers, but instead, she finds more mysteries tucked away in her mother’s past. Her mother appears to be associated with Bo, a feisty photojournalist who flies to Cuba in pursuit of a story and becomes embedded with Castro’s rebels, but Tolan can’t quite work out their connection. She’s more clear about the relationship between her mother and Michael, a man twelve years her senior. They bond over their shared outcast status, and their friendship quickly becomes intimate, but the relationship antagonizes the self-appointed moral watchdogs in their small town, who start to convert their threats into action.

Tolan is pretty sure that Michael is her father. Her mother told her he died years ago, but the book suggests their story had a different ending. Almost overnight, everything Tolan thought she knew about herself and her family has changed. She wants answers, but to find them, she risks destroying her closest relationships.


Tenderly and elegantly written, Ciahnan Darrell’s debut novel, A Lifetime of Men, deftly balances with equal scope and intensity life’s mundane adventures, its deep-ripping traumas, and the cataclysmic political contexts within which they take place. Readers of Darrell’s beautifully sparse prose inhabit the overlapping dramas and traumas of three generations of small-town Maine women. The “lifetime of men” they endure, the social impediments with which they collide, the rebellions they wage, their successes and failures, stand on equal footing with the audacious intrigue and brutal violence of the Cuban Revolution and the US government’s internment of Japanese Americans. This satisfyingly humane novel of intimacy in its public and private spheres is ultimately about stories: those we tell ourselves and those we tell others, those we discover and those we suffer, those we survive and those that survive us, even those we unwittingly harbor within ourselves, and how we persevere through and sometimes in spite of them.

—Tyler M. Williams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Midwestern State University

A Lifetime of Men introduces a major new talent in American fiction. Ciahnan Darrell offers a deeply moving story you won’t want to put down.

This riveting novel interweaves the lives of three women across generations. Ciahnan Darrell masterfully layers monumental historical events with the delicate beauty of quotidian life. The novel explores the many kinds of love, capturing the wonderment of a new relationship as friends become lovers, the complexities of forbidden love provoking moral outrage from the community, and a lifelong friendship teetering on the brink of something more.

A Lifetime of Men explores how women challenge the societal expectations limiting them to the home, introducing the unforgettable protagonist Bo. From her humble roots in Maine, where she tramps the forest as a girl to hunt with her bow, to her dazzling success as a photo-journalist, as she captures the atrocities of the Cuban revolution and the internment camps of Japanese Americans during World War II, Bo pushes the boundaries of what women can accomplish in the twentieth century.

A skillful storyteller, Darrell presents a beautifully written tale that challenges readers to honor the women in their own lives by asking for their stories. His novel reminds us that even the mundane moments of daily life reveal the strength and determination of American women. --Robin E. Field, Professor, King’s College, Pennsylvania, Author of Writing the Survivor: The Rape Novel in Late Twentieth-Century American Fiction

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-00590-381-7

Print ISBN: 978-1-71670-793-3

6" x 9", 344 pages. Printed on archival quality paper.

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