I have had difficulty approaching a review of this book. I’m not even sure how to classify it – short stories or a novel? The bottom line is that I liked listening to it. (The audio is version is narrated by the author.) The language and immediacy of Yunior’s emotions really moved me. I felt I was reading a viewpoint of the world that I don’t get to hear often, so in that way it felt very fresh.
But, I don’t like Yunior. He’s a cheat – the lowest of the low. He’s also the center of all but one of these stories – intelligent, but dishonest; lonely, but cold; searching, but blind.
In fact, I wanted to despise him, but Diaz writes him well enough that I stopped short of hatred. In fact, I felt a little heartbroken for him even as I cringed at his language and behavior. Yunior says about himself:
““In another universe I probably came out OK, ended up with mad novias and jobs and a sea of love in which to swim, but in this world I had a brother who was dying of cancer and a long dark patch of life like a mile of black ice waiting for me up ahead.”
“I’m so alone that every day is like eating my own heart.”
Compelling, right? Then, in the next moment, he’s describing Alma this way, “An ass that could pull the moon out of orbit.” I just never knew how to feel about him and the broken world he inhabits.
And, I have to admit, the foul language and vulgarity were hard to listen too. I think when I read the printed word I must skim profanity to some degree because I often found myself cringing at the crudeness of the men in these stories. Even when Diaz throws in Spanish words and phrases (which he does quite often without any translation other than context) I had the feeling he was swearing.
So I’d start to dislike the book a little bit and then Diaz would reel me back in with such beauty that I felt my breath catch. I especially liked the one story told from a woman’s perspective and the honest beauty of Miss Laura.
“There were a lot of middle-aged types living alone, shipwrecked by all kinds of catastrophes.”
Miss Laura is a sort of continuation of the earlier story of how Yunior deals (or doesn’t) with his brother Rafa’s death. It deals with Yunior’s inability to face the real world and his love affair with a much older neighbor woman. To me, this is the strongest story in the collection.
I haven’t read Diaz’s book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and, honestly, I’m not in a hurry to pick it up after finishing this book. But I do admire his in-your-face style and bits of beauty.
“The half-life of love is forever. Sometimes a start is all we get.”
- Cheaters, Beware – This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (bookrhapsody.wordpress.com)
- This Is How You Lose Her (shelflove.wordpress.com)