THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER by Junot Diaz
Maybe I should wait a while before reviewing this book, because all I'm
getting are disjointed words: Beautiful. Ugly. Funny. Heartbreaking.
Above all, POWERFUL.
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER is a series of
stories that (mostly) center around one character, Yunior. He's a young
Dominican American; tough, proud, scared, angry--all of these are decent
descriptions of the protagonist. What we see over and over, though, is
his deep, deep desire to love and be loved. Unfortunately, he shoots
himself in the foot over and over again, choosing sex over the love he
craves. One by one, he has and loses women who are willing to give him
that love, but not willing to be used.
What drives Yunior's
self-destruction? Maybe it's being the 'other son', the one who feels
like the also ran for a mother's love. Maybe it's the example set by his
philandering father and brother. Maybe it's having grown up poor and
feeling like he has to prove his worthiness over and over, to whomever
will pay attention to him. Regardless of the reason, he repeats the same
patterns of love, betrayal, and repentance over the course of many
My feelings for this boy (for so he remains, despite his
physical age, right up to the end of the book) changed from story to
story: first, I felt sorry for him. I really did--felt sorry for a
cheater. With each successive story, though, I got more frustrated with
him...until the last couple of stories. That boy broke my heart even as
he broke his own in finally becoming a man. We're left at the end with a
Yunior who has lost much, but perhaps finally gained an honest view of
his own soul. When in the concluding paragraphs he concluded, "The
half-life of love is forever," I knew he would be okay. And I cried for
Earlier, I said that this book is mostly about Yunior, and
that's the truth. There is one story that doesn't seem to be connected
to him at all. In it, the reader is introduced to the Dominican Latina
experience (and the cheater experience from the distaff side). It is
also well-written, but I know that I will be puzzling out for a while
how it fits into the narrative as a whole. I know the connection is
there--Diaz is far too good a writer to have just tossed it into this
slim (only 212 pgs)volume--and I'll eventually find it. Lovely excuse to
read this treat again.
I have no criticism at all of this
precise, concise, well-written book. I do have a wish that I spoke more
Spanish; I could puzzle much of the Spanish narrative out, but I'm sure
that I missed shades of meaning. If profanity bothers you, you might
want to skip this book. That doesn't bother me, as long as it is tonally
correct for the book, which it is in this novel.
I've not read Diaz prior to this, but I'll be quick to remedy that.