I’ve been good about reading consistently but I haven’t been good about reviewing. My apologies. I just finished the book “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz. This is the first time I’ve read a book by Junot Diaz, though I had listened to one of his stories on the New Yorker’s fiction podcast. According to Amazon, this is a fictional book but given the information we know about Diaz, I suspect that all or most of the major aspects (locations, main characters, etc) of the stories are at least based on events that really happened.
The book is composed of nine short stories. Five of them are named after women. Each story could stand on its own however I loved the way they read as a collection.
Diaz clearly drew on personal knowledge and experiences for these stories. He vividly describes areas of New Jersey and life as a new immigrant from The Dominican Republic in ways that only someone who lived there could. He also sprinkles Spanglish and common Latino euphemisms throughout the story which adds a level of interest and authenticity that I do not think a lesser author could have achieved. When I first read the title of the book, I thought the book was going to be love stories gone wrong. There was some of that of course but each story contained so many layers. There were a couple stories where the “her” being lost only seems like a peripheral character. To me, that is genius. It adds an element of unexpected complexity.
My favorite story is the last one titled, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.” While it is significantly longer than the other stories it is the best. The story begins with Yunior, the recurring main character being exposed as a cheater. His fiancée discovered his multiple indiscretions after going through his computer. That event starts Yunior down a multiyear spiral of depression and philandering that makes you wonder if he will even survive. He tried dating both inside and outside of his ethnicity. Nothing seems to work for him. The only things that seem to be consistent are his depression and what can only be described as hate for women. As someone who has struggled and still struggles with depression, I can tell you that Diaz’s description is totally accurate. As Jay-Z told us, when the sun don’t shine, the sun don’t shine. My favorite line of the book comes from this story. Yunior writes, “the half life of love is forever.” That line is a great descriptor of so many of the occurrences throughout the book.
I loved the way Diaz was able to combine other complexities in what seemed to be just like love stories. The death of Yunior’s brother is discussed in multiple stories. Diaz vividly describes the struggles faced by recent immigrants who need to adjust and learn American culture, racism, religion and Yunior’s father walking out on the family.
I had many “favorites” throughout the book but my overall favorite was the way Diaz explored different kinds of love and loss. There is high school love. The imagined love of a girl who loves Yunior’s brother. There is the forbidden love with an older woman, a teacher. There is the love that has a limit because the lover, isn’t totally available. I definitely plan on reading more of Junot Diaz’s work. This book made me a fan. You can buy the book: here.
Have you read this book or any other work by Junot Diaz? Comment below and let me know!