Thursday, October 25, 2012
Author: Junot Diaz
Enjoyment Rating: *****
This book would be rated: R (sex and language)
Source: Library Copy
Books I've read this year: 109
There are some books that deserve to be reviewed while they're fresh in the reader's mind, and while I would definitely say that This is How You Lose Her falls into that category, I'm also pleased to discover that more that three weeks after I sent it back to the library, I still remember the individual stories well. It's a book with staying power.
Readers who loved Junot Diaz's Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao might be surprised, although not disappointed, by his return to short stories. In This is How You Lose Her Diaz writes mainly in the gritty voice of Yunior, who is in some stories a teenager watching how his brother (dying of cancer) treats women, and in others is a man mistreating women himself. The stories aren't chronological, and there is at least one told from a women's perspective, but there's a richness that comes from reading the entire collection and seeing Yunior's collection of failed relationships all laid out side by side. I also had to resist the urge to see the stories as Yunior = Junot-- the names are similar enough and the choice of professions are identical. I really wanted to get my hands on Wikipedia to see how parallel the stories were. But I resisted the urge.
I remember reading Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth a few years ago and being blown away by how interconnected short stories sometimes presented a better picture of an individual than a novel does. I got the same sense with This is How You Lose Her. What stays with me is Yunior's voice-- a voice that sounds like it hasn't moved beyond the barrio until it slips in a word like prestidigitation, a voice that is at turns, both pained and capable of inflicting great pain.