Losing It by Emma Rathbone
Riverhead Books, 2016; 272 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardelli
How has Julia lived to age twenty-six without losing her virginity? She’s stable, attractive, and intelligent, and yet her hopes to rid herself of the Scarlet V have been fruitless. With her life growing stagnant, Julia plans to rid herself of her virginity by the summer’s end. It’s a familiar plot, but Emma Rathbone gets quite a bit of mileage out of it in her latest novel Losing It.
What sets Rathbone’s book apart from typical virginity stories is both the humor and compassion she displays for Julia’s predicament, particularly in the discussing what sidelined her from having sex, from competitive swimming aspirations that went nowhere to jobs that stifled her body and soul. When Julia quits her office job early in the novel, she decides to spend the summer in North Carolina working in a law firm while living with her Aunt Vivienne, a possible virgin herself. Julia becomes endlessly curious about her aunt and how she might avoid a similar path in life cloistered and seemingly cut off from meaningful relationships. Rathbone’s writing in Losing It shines brightest in those introspective moments of Julia analyzing her life and what she’ll do to achieve her goal before the season comes to a close. Like many personal conflicts, losing your virginity may not be the worst, but the mind can certainly make it feel that way.