Kathleen Volk Miller on Pamela Erens “Virgins,”
by Tin House Books
As an editor, I can say this is one of the most finely crafted books I’ve read. The fresh approach of a narrator who is imagining our scenes adds a compelling filter who still feels trustworthy. The mix of longer and shorter chapters truly worked for these characters and this story—we live our lives in a mixture of fragment and time for reflection; we see what we want to see—all of these ideas inform the narrative arc of the novel.
Erens handling of the characters sexuality and the grace with which she handles the sex scenes—with teenagers—deserves a separate round of applause. She expertly surprises and surprises us again, all while making each moment seem organic and true.
As a reader, I was simply moved. I have a strong empathetic arc with Ben, Avivva, and Seung. I “worried” about them when I was away from the book. Their personalities are rich, original and all the more compelling when they interact. The novel afforded me that rare but memorable experience of reading voraciously, wanting to see what would happen next, but then being so sad when it was over and I couldn’t “be with” them anymore.
Buy it: Live without regret