By: Emma Rathbone
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Penguin Random House/Penguin Audio
Genre: Fiction – Contemporary Women
Release Date: July 19, 2016
Also available in Hardcover and E-Book Formats
Penguin Random House/Riverhead Books (July 19, 2016)
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Julia Greenfield has a problem: she’s twenty-six years old and she’s still a virgin. Sex ought to be easy. People have it all the time! But, without meaning to, she made it through college and into adulthood with her virginity intact. Something’s got to change.
To re-route herself from her stalled life, Julia travels to spend the summer with her mysterious aunt Vivienne in North Carolina. It’s not long, however, before she unearths a confounding secret—her 58 year old aunt is a virgin too. In the unrelenting heat of the southern summer, Julia becomes fixated on puzzling out what could have lead to Viv’s appalling condition, all while trying to avoid the same fate.
Filled with offbeat characters and subtle, wry humor, Losing It is about the primal fear that you just. might. never. meet. anyone. It’s about desiring something with the kind of obsessive fervor that almost guarantees you won’t get it. It’s about the blurry lines between sex and love, and trying to figure out which one you’re going for. And it’s about the decisions—and non-decisions—we make that can end up shaping a life. http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/318890/losing-it/
This is one of those stories where, as I read it, I wondered what the point was. I knew that it’s about a young person, Julia, who is haunted by failure, of her athletic career, of her college career, and in her career career.
She is adrift and decides she needs to be with her family on the other side of the country. Her family life is falling apart too, she has no place to go and ends up going to live for a summer with a maiden aunt who works in hospice and pursues selling art.
In the end, her self-indulgent irresponsibility starts affecting other people and she either has to grow up and act like an adult or go on drifting.
What is the source of her dissolution? Her own failed athletic career or having drifted into that career? Her virginity or having drifted into that condition as well ?
I think if we look to losing virginity as the crux of her problems then we are looking in the wrong place. But here, it seems, to be what Julia feels holds her back. It doesn’t seem to be the actually presence of a hymen; more that it is about how it is possible that at 26 she is still in possession of one.
What it really could be is her obsession with her virginity. Could it be she’s symbolic of a national obsession with sex in general or women’s reproductive powers? Or is that putting too fine a point on it?
I was perplexed by this book. I was also a little bored by the way Julia, the main character, drifted and that she ascribes her immature behavior to her virginity. Her behavior is adolescent; she is stuck there, knows she is stuck, and attributes it to virginity. I attribute it to being an elite athlete as a youth and her focus on that rather than creating the building blocks of friendship and learning. As a swimmer she was focused – young athletes have to be.
But when she talks about being an elite competitor and how she got there she talks about it being a knack, “This is all you have to do?” [she] remembers thinking, “Just try to keep pushing as hard as you can against the water?” (page 10) She talks about continuing because she was encouraged and because she became addicted to the approval from her coach. It is only when a younger and more naturally talented swimmer comes along that she gives up because she sees immediately she will not be able to surpass this new swimmer. Welcome to life as a woman — as we age someone younger and prettier is always nipping at our heels.
Is that the problem? When the approval was removed because a faster swimmer came along, there was nothing else to propel Julia forward in her life? She had focused on this one thing and when it is gone what is there? Has not having to swim forward left her to just float aimlessly?
So, is it about losing her virginity or just losing? It is both one person’s story and the story of today’s purportedly disaffected and disillusioned twenty somethings.
The book itself didn’t grab me on its own: I didn’t care about the characters. It is only as I sat down to write about it that I believe I see what the author was trying to bring forward. It was almost painful to read — “coming of age” books almost always are. One needs the painful event to catapult one into adulthood. Is it going to be a physical pain associated with losing virginity or the pain of failing someone other than herself?
The audiobook narration is well done, appropriately voiced for the characters’ genders and ages. It was not a performance that distracted from the book. The narrator’s voice especially suited the perpetually perplexed Julia well.
I didn’t really enjoy this book, but I did find it had merit as an essay on today’s twenty somethings and what motivates, or fails to motivate them.