The Men in My Life

The relief. The knowledge that I am fuckable after all. At least if I beg.

Sonia is 13 years old. Her two best friends have stopped liking her and have spread a rumor that she is a lesbian. The thought of an ugly girl who doesn’t like boys is disgusting. She hears them whisper and she understands what loneliness is. At 16, Sonia makes a list of all the guys she has made out with, tries to remember who and when. It’s a long list. But kissing is too easy. It doesn’t give her what she needs; she needs to know that she is desirable.

When number 0 takes Sonia’s virginity, it is a gateway to her desperate hunt for validation through sex. Number 1 becomes a long-term boyfriend, number 2 is thrilling, and number 3 is way too hot for her. Number 4 is politically engaged, someone Sonia could see herself falling for. But she does everything she can to protect herself from her own feelings.

Sonia leaves high school, and gets into law school. Bodies come and go. The numbers are fleeting exchanges of body fluids in the dark. Attempts to fill a growing void. Sonia asks the men questions and they speak about themselves and take from her: her advice, her time. Her. Sonia feels alone in the world, unable to be seen and unable to be loved. She starts seeing a therapist who prescribes her anti-depressants. Sonia thinks about the romanticizing of depression but she does not see the beauty in it. She is just tired and lonely. And no one is there to catch her when she falls.

Sonia embarks on a promising career. Meanwhile, the numbers continue to rack up. They give her STD’s, reduce her to an object, have ugly tattoos, and display varying degrees of violence towards her. They take advantage of her, and she of them. And the more they speak, the less interested Sonia becomes. Full of self-deceit and self-loathing, Sonia is unable to control her own impulses and pushes her boundaries in search of something real and meaningful. But does sex have to be meaningful? And is a woman defined by the sex that she has?

Fiercely talented debut author Sofia Rönnow Pessah has written an addictively readable and eerily identifiable page-turner that in short chapters and a taut prose turns the spotlight on female desire and asks burning questions about sexuality and consent today.

“The new generational novel is here”
Uppsala Nya Tidning (SE)

“This book should above all be read by men who think they understand female sexuality, or by those who coolly don’t give a damn about it and think women are sex robots.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“Pop culture often jokes about women who want sex, aren’t slim, are felt-up and drink too much (think Bridget Jones), but Rönnow Pessah’s book does the opposite. It takes Sonia’s pain seriously and lets us laugh at the men instead. […] Rönnow Pessah’s prose is captivating, high speed and
devoid of unnecessary details.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“A story that echos of loneliness. The Men in My Life is one of the most heartbreaking novels I have ever read.”
Expressen (SE)

“It is intentionally unerotic – spot on and very well done. It’s also refreshing how Sonia’s gaze at men is sexualizing, objectifying, and judgmental.”
Helsingsborgs Dagblad (SE)

“Intimate. Anguished. Destructive. Mechanical. Obsessive.  These words depict the meetings with the men – which to amplify the objectifying anonymity – are called number 1, number 2, number 3… The structure is intriguing.”
Borås Tidning (SE)

The Men in My Life is a feminist novel even though it makes fun of the patriarchy on the patriarchy’s own terms. At the same time, it’s a #metoo-novel in the sense that most of the men are quite afraid of crossing a line but do it anyway.”
Göteborgs – Posten (SE)

“As chapters and numbers continue to rack up, the purpose of the novel’s structure is made clear, as the lighthearted feeling of being slightly amused turns into deep devastation. The self-hatred takes center stage, and what could have been a funny anecdote slowly gets under your skin, a reminder of the fathomless number of tears that the patriarchy is responsible for.”
Sundsvall Tidning (SE)

Sofia Rönnow Pessah is a writer and lawyer from Malmö, Sweden. The Men in My Life is her literary debut.

Learn more about Sofia Rönnow Pessah