Review: Juniot Díaz's "This Is How You Lose Her"

In his latest publication, Díaz returns to a familiar character and once again explores loneliness with his trademark style and humor.

Junot Díaz’s latest book explores the loneliness that comes after losing a beloved person. Yunior, the author’s well-known character in Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, returns in This is How You Lose Her. His girlfriend has broken up with him after she discovers he was unfaithful to her. He makes efforts to keep her, but every attempt is a failure, and he knows it.

Six of the book’s nine short-stories portray Yunior’s insubstantial love relationships developed in his childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The other three stories explore how his philandering father and brother have been the only male role models in his life.
Yunior asked in one story “It was sort of like love, wasn’t it?” and in other story says “Like it might be love,” showing how the end is just being postponed.

Díaz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and creative writing professor currently at MIT, takes advantage of his Dominican background to write an English text spiced with Spanish words that give rhythm to the narration.

But most importantly, Díaz adds his personal ingredient: a humorous style within a kind of ‘macho-Latino’ stream of consciousness, full of visceral language which makes you laugh once in a while. Yunior says that one of his girlfriends has “a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit.”
Díaz’s voice is held in a solid structure framed by the Hispanic environment translated to the U.S. The book’s female characters constantly accuse Dominican men of bringing the cheating culture with them, causing women to suffer and question if they are really loved.

The only female narrator says: “Ana Iris once asked me if I loved him and I told her about the lights in my old home in the capital, how they flickered and you never knew if they would go out or not. You put down your things and you waited and couldn’t do anything really until the lights decided. This, I told her, is how I feel.”

This Is How You Lose Her can be read in one sitting or story by story: each tale is a unique piece of art, delicately structured and strongly narrated. The characters are so well-developed that their stories stay vividly in your mind for a long time. You hate Yunior and then you love him, but at the end you feel sorry for him. Although he has been a ‘macho’ character throughout the book, he is devastated by the loss. “Like someone flew a plane into your soul. Like someone flew two planes into your soul.”

In the last story, Yunior tries to explain that by writing all his love stories, why he failed, why he betrayed his partners over and over again, and why he is lonely. In the process Yunior finds that “sometimes a start is all we ever get.” The reader sighs, feeling that Yunior might be right: maybe life is just a compendium of many flashes −like each story of the book− many, many attempts to find ourselves.

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