This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
I found it curious that an author would choose a title that implies a step by step instructional in how to ruin your love life. I half expected this book to be a male version of How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, but fortunately Diaz is much more real than that. Similar in Diaz's previous works The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, and Drown, the narrator Yunior has made a return. In this ensemble of short stories Yunior narrates his life, "a typical Dominican man: a sucio, an asshole." Or at least this is how his family, friends, and almost every woman he's ever been with would describe him. But to Yunior, "I'm not a bad guy. I know how that sounds--defensive, unscrupulous--but it's true. I'm like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good."
In each short story Diaz further develops the character and life of Yunior, and shows the reader how it is that Yunior became known as a "sucio." In the stories "The Sun, The Moon, The Stars; Alma; Flaca; and Miss Lora" we read about the broken relationships between Yunior and his, future, ex-girlfriends. It is not until you read "Invierno" that you realize that Yunior is a product of his upbringing. Yunior's father was a sucio, as well as his brother, so it was inevitable that he, too, would become a cheating sucio. "...you are your father's son and your brother's brother."
At times this book was too much. Diaz isn't hesitant to be vulgar or sexually explicit. I acknowledge their use to aid in voice and character creation but there is a line that can be crossed and Diaz is pushing his limits. I would recommend this book to mature readers only. On a the flip side, Diaz's use of voice is magnificent. It is quite easy for the reader to tell the changes in maturity and age throughout the short stories, for that Diaz deserves high regards.
For someone who grew up in a predominantly white upper-middle class Christian atmosphere it was hard for me to relate to this book. The language, the sex, the familial dynamics were all foreign to me. There were moments these factors made the book hard to pick up. I later realized that this is what makes the book so brilliant. Diaz has created a cultural experience. Whether this book accurately represents aspects of dominican culture or not, Diaz has successfully created ideas, behaviors, and values that together form a culture outside of my own. Diaz does not let the reader walk away without knowing exactly what it feels like to be inside the mind of a loveless, sex addicted, romantic, who grew up in a Dominican family.
This Is How You Lose Her is anything but cliché. This is not your typical love story. This story, although fiction, is real. People don't always find love and live happily ever after. Yunior is not even remotely close to what women picture as the perfect man, and he is far from achieving, what society pictures, the perfect love."The Cheater's Guide to Love", the last short story in this series, I found magnificently ironic and ultimately sets up the perfect ending for Yunior. Cheaters do not know what love is, and as long as they maintain their habits, they will never find authentic love.
If you're searching for a happy sappy love story, this is not it. If you're looking to broaden you're horizons, and try something different, this compilation of short stories should do the trick. Diaz opens a window for the reader to experience not only another culture, but also the imperfections of life and love. You will leave this book with a better understanding of the dynamics that create a life of broken relationships.
By: DEAN WITT