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A Women's Fiction Writers Association Booktrib choice!
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ABOUT THE BOOK
It is 1986 and Rita McEachern’s routine life is about to change—drastically. Eighteen years of being a stay-at-home wife and mother have turned her into a borderline agoraphobic, afraid to venture more than a few blocks from her home. If she is stuck in an emotionally abusive and loveless marriage, she is not aware of it, devoting all her attention to domesticity and her four children. Culturally, she and her husband are wildly diverse, she the daughter of immigrants to Toronto, Canada from a poverty-stricken Sicilian village, her husband’s Scottish family having established themselves generations earlier.
An unexpected confrontation with Valentin, a ruggedly handsome Spanish immigrant from Barcelona, shakes up her life both physically and emotionally. Although twelve years younger than Rita, he is intrigued by her innocence and naivete. Unable to resist his enthusiastic overtures, Rita falls passionately in love with him, sending her on a spiraling road to destruction, forcing her to make some hard decisions in order to save herself and her children.
"A richly detailed evocation of an eighties housewife's journey from oppression to self-actualization and fulfillment."
— Beth Kaplan, writing teacher at University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies and author of Loose Woman, a memoir
Jeff left a review. (GOODREADS, BOOKBUB, AMAZON),
A Scarcity of Virgins is not for the faint of heart. Author JoAnn Catania presents a stark and, at times, shocking tale of a woman’s struggle to break free of the gender roles placed on her by society. It’s not a violent narrative, nor is it as racy as a Barbara Cartland. However, the claustrophobic conditions of the protagonist’s marriage can leave the reader gasping for breath. The prose can be a bit tongue-in-cheek. Within the first dozen pages, there is a miscarriage, commentary on infanticide, and a sexualized examination of the masculine and feminine characteristics of the shape of letters. All I can say on that last one is, you must read it. The word orgasm comes up several times throughout the novel as well. I am scandalized—and hooked.
Its 1986. Rita is a Toronto housewife lamenting the stultifying conditions of the traditional marriage she has with her husband, Victor. She has reached a point in her life when she wants to have more than the role ascribed to her—a role whose mundanity is starting to take a toll on her mental well-being. She is plagued by recurring nightmares of a ghostly old women reaching out to her with a withered hand. She is paralyzed by a fear of crowds which intensifies her desire to return to the safety and comfort of her home when she does venture out. In this, the author is underscoring the rising internal conflict between a woman who wants more but is fearful of venturing away from the world she knows. The safety and comfort of her quiet life soon give way to a desire to step out and be so much more. It’s a Doll’s House meets Working Girl and its fantastic.
Rita does not feel her life is a sentence handed down by a cruel universe. She loves Victor, despite his controlling behavior She is a wonderful and supportive mother to her children. She is just bored. Rita is a woman who looks at what she has but still has the temerity to ask, “is this all there is?” What may shock some readers is the casual way in with Victor’s misogyny is revealed. He is not abusive, just very controlling. He is aware of his place and believes Rita is aware of hers. This is simply the society in which they live. Her gradual rebellion opens up a new world and Rita is able to experience that world--with all its ups and downs. Take the phone off the hook and read this book with a nice Merlot. You may also want a cigarette afterwards.
"Readers who enjoyed Anne Tyler's A Ladder of Years and Caroline Adderson's Ellen in Pieces will find themselves immediately at home in A Scarcity of Virgins, an exquisitely written debut novel narrated by Rita, mother of four, wife to 'Victor' (whose name tells us immediately that this is a 'father knows best' sort of marriage). This is a story of a woman's quiet rebellion, even before she discovers her own sensuality and purpose. What I particularly admired was this author's ability to put us inside Rita's body. From an early, anxious, and snowy drive to a meat market to buy milk-fed veal for a dinner where's she's expected to impress her husband's boss to the couple's passionless sex, the reader quickly grasps that Rita must find an exit from the trap that she doesn't even know she's in. Otherwise, she risks an annihilation of self. Rita's journey to find happiness leads her to defy the conventional expectations of what a married woman should want and be and to discover what she herself wants and is."
— Marylee MacDonald, author (Body Language, Bonds of Love and Blood and others)
"This novel intelligently and aptly portrays Rita as the accepting 1980's wife of an unkind and abusive husband and mother of four great kids. Underneath the days of dutifully attending to the needs of others we see her vulnerability and her gentle wish that there is something more if she could only have the confidence to adventure out of her safe routines. The opportunity comes in the form of an affair with a younger man, and Rita starts living intensely, riding highs, lows, mistakes, and triumphs that ultimately provide her with the strength to own her own life and confidence. Rita's keen in-the-moment observations and confusion over love and life ring very true. A fine read."
"A woman’s journey through love and experience to a new realization of herself as strong, capable and able to take care of herself. A book to be devoured as you cheer for Rita and could cheerfully strangle her men."
—Jane Kendale (author of Windflower's Song)
A SCARCITY OF VIRGINS by JoAnn Catania JoAnn Catania is a very skillful writer who expresses with passion and an honesty in telling what her protagonist, Rita, is experiencing as a wife and as a lover. One almost feels one is living in Rita’s skin! I was captivated by this book. It is definitely a book that will appeal to many women and cause them to reflect on how she would react in similar circumstances. It could only be written by a deeply understanding and loving person, whose own life is based on loyalty, generosity, and courageous living. On feels the reality of Rita’s emotional depth and subsequent struggles as she finds she must dig deep into her soul in order to decide who she is and where she is going from here. This is a real page turner!
--- Reviewed by Paula Niall
This book is a comfortable, entertaining read and I love that it is in Toronto where I lived for many years. Ms. Catania's wonderfully descriptive writing is vivid and humorous, especially regarding the many little ethnic communities found in Toronto. It is nice to read a good story about an ordinary person who isn't a cop, a spy or a supervill
... I really enjoyed seeing Rita develop from the resigned housewife. She’s in her 40s and unhappy with her life. She’s unhappy with her husband. He’s an abusive and unkind man. She enters back into the workforce and reinventing herself and her love for herself. She has an affair with a younger man. Rita shows the struggles women go through and how we shouldn’t stay complacent in life. Rita’s was living in a time when women were still repressed. I mean will women ever have true equality?
Justice S. (NetGalley Reviewer)
The year is 1986 and thirty-eight-year-old Rita lives in the suburbs of Toronto with her husband and four kids. While her husband is a good provider to Rita and their children, there is no passion there. Lovemaking is perfunctory and scheduled in twice a week – always on the same days – without fail. Rita cares for her children and ensures they are well fed and taken care of, but even that relationship seems more tied to a sense of duty than a source of fulfilment.
Rita contributes greatly to her own sense of isolation from larger society since her fear of driving around her city – and her refusal to ever drive on the highway – further shrinks her world. It’s not even that Rita would fully understand the oddity of her circumstances. Having grown up in a strict Sicilian-Italian family, women were taught to reign in the homes and to be dutiful wives. While her immigrant parents were incredibly proud their daughter obtained a college degree, they never had any intention of her using her education once she married.
Within this context, Rita’s world is entirely upended when she meets Valentin, a much younger man who immigrated to Canada from Spain, and who quickly becomes her lover. This torrid affair rapidly becomes all-consuming to the inexperienced Rita, and soon she is risking everything. Her marriage, the safety of her children, her sense of reason, her family finances – all fall prey to the overwhelming passion she feels for the man who has awoken her sexual desire.
In some ways, this is a coming of (middle) age novel. Rita’s affair serves to open her eyes for the first time to possibilities beyond her narrow world, and she begins to question everything about her life and the choices she made.
This novel also includes a nice exploration of immigrant communities in Canada, showing how Rita’s own family molded her experiences and values – and expectations for her marriage and her life choices...this was an interesting portrait of one woman’s journey of self-discovery, and the reader is drawn very much within Rita’s thoughts and feelings throughout the novel. There are some beautiful descriptions and I enjoyed the insight into her upbringing within the Sicilian-Canadian community.
Kimberley S. (NetGalley reviewer)
The Ginger Press, Owen Sound
To Order Online: https://www.amazon.com/Scarcity-Virgins-JoAnn-Catania-ebook/dp/B09GW8X33G/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3M02OIIZBF5NM&keywords=a+scarcity+of+virgins&qid=1640985313&sprefix=a+scarc%2Caps%2C101&sr=8-1
LISTEN TO MY PODCAST INTERVIEW FOR "HEAR US ROAR" HOSTED BY MAGGIE SMITH.