Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: This is How You Lose Her

This is How You Lose Her

by Junot Diaz


From Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. In addition to the Pulitzer, Díaz has won a host of major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.

Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”


To begin, I have not read anything written by Junot Díaz before I picked up this book. I didn't know what to expect and nor was I aware of the fact that Yunior is a character that shows up rather frequently in Díaz's writings. Do you have to read everything else before you read this book? No, it works as a stand alone book. 

Within this book's pages, you will find story after story of pain, heartache and love. Between man and woman, mother and father, brothers, and cultures. There are lines so electrifying that I had to stop for a moment and just let them sink in. They were that beautiful. This book does not portray a perfect love story. What it does show us is the hard work that goes into a love that will last. It also shows just how quickly someone can lose everything. Sadly, it sometimes takes losing it all to realize that you truly had everything to begin with. 

All the stories were executed extremely well - but I must say that Díaz saved the absolutely best story for last, The Cheater's Guide to Love. Now, I haven't done much background research on Díaz (yet), but I have heard that much of his writing is autobiographical in nature. I learned not long after picking up the book that he and his fiancee broke up about 5 years before This is How You Lose Her was published. I bring this up because The Cheater's Guide to Love appears to be the most intimate portrayal of love lost in the whole collection. I believe this is the reason why it made my heart hurt the most while I read it. 

A co-worker that saw me reading this told me that he heard Díaz was labeled a misogynist by some critics. I truly do not see the hatred or dislike of women in these stories. After hearing what my co-worker said, I read with a critical eye, looking for this hatred. However, I did not find any. Maybe I'm not sensitive enough, or maybe I have a different way of understanding - but when I read his words, I read the pain of losing the "right" woman and having no one to blame but himself in the end. 

You may notice that this is the most I have written about any book (except for maybe The Millennium Series). That, is how much I truly enjoyed these stories. Now, keep in mind, these are love stories in the most realistic sense. They are not perfect fairy tales, so do not expect to find them. There is some Dominican slang, some Spanish and some vulgar words. These did not bother me, but I read a book for the story and I am not sensitive to these details. Keep this in mind when you think about picking up this book. Needless to say, I loved it (and now need to own it). 


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