This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz – Book Review

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin

But that would make it anotther kind of story, and I’m having enough trouble with this one as it is. You’ll have to take my word for it. Santo Domingo is Santo Domingo. Let’s pretend we all know what goes on there. -p. 10

Being Dominican is a huge part of Yunior’s life. He was born there and returns on a regular basis, being Dominican is at the very core of his identity. Unfortunately for his happiness and the happiness of the women around him, Yunior has also internalized the stereotype of Dominican men that they will not be tied down to a single woman, cheating on their partners compulsively and almost indiscriminately.

In This is How You Lose Her, Diaz tells Yunior’s stories in a series of connected, non-chronological stories. As is unsurprising for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Diaz’s prose is gorgeous and affecting. Despite an admission in the second paragraph that he had cheated on his girlfriend, Yunior is a surprisingly sympathetic character. His father and brother are dogs, certainly, but Yunior somehow seems different. Perhaps it is assertion in the opening lines of the book that he is not a cad:

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. -p. 3

Diaz’s skill in characterization is such that, although Yunior cheats and treats women badly in story after story, the reader can still that Yunior truly is a good guy at heart, that this cheating is either not his fault or something he perhaps just needs to grow out of, that when he finds the right woman everything will fall into place. This really is a truly remarkable feat, because there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary, such as the passage in which one of Yunior’s girlfriends finds his journal, which chronicles his cheating:

You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel. This is how you lose her. -p. 48

Even if the idea of reading about a cheating man is not one that appeals to you,This is How You Lose Her is still absolutely worth reading. Although the events in the stories focus on relationships, not all of them are romantic relationships; perhaps the most poignant stories are those that deal with Yunior’s family, particularly his mother and his brother during his brother’s illness. In offering these non-chronological snapshots of Yunior’s life and loves, Diaz creates a full and beautifully realized study of a character that you simply can’t help buy love.

Highly recommended.

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