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)
16 thoughts on “This is How You Lose Her – a new review”
I think you should give Oscar Wao a chance. It combines beauty and rawness — sometimes sensitively, sometimes not. I haven’t gotten to this one yet.
I like that description of beauty and rawness. He does that well. I’d probably like it, but not quite yet.
I’ve been dying to read Oscar Wao and this one. I have a feeling I’d love them from your description. Sometimes I like that in your face writing. It makes me thankful for my blessings but keeps me aware of others difficulties.
This one will deliver on both counts.
They’ve both been on my Goodreads TBR list.
Every single quote you pulled here gave me goosebumps – especially black ice and middle age shipwreck. Yikes!
Oh I think you’d love the language throughout. There is so much to admire about this book, I just wanted to LIKE Yunior a little bit more.
It’s funny, you actually described my experience of reading Oscar Wao. I always had difficulty putting it into words and here you’ve done it, even if you’re discussing another of his books, how odd! I think, in the end, that while I appreciate his talent, I just don’t like his writing, which is why I didn’t want to read his other book.
There’s definitely a difference between admiring a writer and liking his work. Thanks for the comment.
I love Junot Diaz. Great review!
Thanks Jamie. And thanks again for sharing.
Back when I was younger and had nothing but time to kill, I would never, ever start a novel and not finish it. I had to say I read this book, the whole book, in all it’s entirety. Now, that I am much older and have very little time, I start plenty of books and not finish them, and, This is How You Lose her, is one of those books I started but never finished. To keep me reading now, I either have to fall in love with a character or despise them with my whole heart, and like you I didn’t completely hate Yunior, but I didn’t love him either. Maybe someday I will finish it. The qoutes you pulled made me think maybe I should have dug a little deeper. Awesome review like always!
You are so kind. And, I too, have started putting books down more often. There are too many things to read to waste effort without fulfillment.
ALENA!!! WHAT! Read Oscar Wao…PLEASE. I was not impressed with this new collection of short stories, but Oscar Wao is one of my favorite books ever. I just know you will appreciate it.
ALL CAPS CASSIE???? Ok, I will keep Oscar Wao on the To Read list and approach it with an open mind. You are among several friends who rank Oscar very highly, so I trust I will be impressed. I am very much looking for a book to blow me away. It hasn’t happened yet this year.
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