As soon as I heard about Ruby Lang’s novella The Art of Losing, I started plotting how to get my hands on an arc. I saw an Instagram post that linked to an arc giveaway and I entered so fast, I practically reached through the internet and snatched the file. As you can see, I was successful. And I am completely unsurprised to announce that I loved it. A lot.
The Art of Losing is drenched in grief and vulnerability. Gia was born in China but adopted by a white American couple. Some time before the book begins, her adoptive father dies after a short, but draining illness. Gia is mourning his death and struggling with the things he said before he died. She is seeing his ghost everywhere.
Prompted by her father’s regrets, Gia goes to China where she interviews for and accepts a job. She and Cal, a Black American, meet on the street, and again on the plane home to Boston. Cal is a professor of Jazz and on sabbatical. He is the sunshine to Gia’s seriousness (not really a grump, though Lang has written some excellent grumps). Gia is a statistician, but so much of what she communicates to the reader is feeling and touch. So much of what she understands about the people around her is from their body language. We learn more about how Cal feels about Gia from the way he touches her.
Despite her own reluctance and inertia, Gia starts a relationship with Cal. They tell each other things they don’t usually say, but they don’t talk about Gia’s impending move, until they do.
I think Ruby Lang, in all her pen names, is a fantastic writer. The Art of Losing feels like a concentration of the thing she does best – showing the astounding bravery of being vulnerable and intimate. Gia and Cal both know that loss is inevitable in loving. Cal pursues Gia even though he knows she’s leaving and Gia lets Cal in, even though she’s already grieving one loss. They are so awkwardly, fallibly, gorgeously human.
It’s a short novella, but a keeper for sure. Gia starts in a place where her emotions are too big for the cramped space she has allowed them, and ends with an expansive joy. All the characters are grappling with grief, change, and moving on. Everything is seen through Gia’s eyes, so as readers we see her understanding of herself, her parents, and Cal shift. It’s quietly cathartic.
The Art of Losing is out March 31.
CW: grief, death of a parent in past (Gia and Cal), death from cancer off page, aging parent with dementia off page, familial racism, interracial adoption, interracial relationship.
I received this as an advance reader copy from the author. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.