This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
I loved Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so I was excited to pick up his latest book, especially after the buzz I heard about it this past summer. It’s structured more like a book of related stories than like a novel, so it feels kind of fragmented and impressionistic, in a good way that fits the character and the story. For the last two chapters, it switches from first person point of view to second. The stories follow Yunior, a character who turned up in Oscar Wao, through his many screwed-up relationships. There are more break-ups in this book than anyone should have to endure in a lifetime. He keeps making the same mistake over and over, cheating on every girlfriend. Yunior seems to continually astonish himself with his own capacity for selfishness and heartbreak.
I remember reading a review of this book that said it was about a character who was a misogynist, or who at least exhibited some misogynistic behavior, but it was not a misogynistic book because it’s clear that the character is wrong and misguided and self-destructive. I think I agree with this assessment. At one point Yunior even “blames the patriarchy” for his own womanizing. I think I also remember reading an interview with Diaz where he said the book was about a misogynist turning into a feminist, or something like that. I’ll agree with that too.
As always, I was blown away by Diaz’s sentences. I love the flavor of the Spanish words he drops in, the punch of swagger they add. The tone of regret and self-recrimination, tinged with bravado and humor, that runs through the book makes a character who does some pretty despicable things sympathetic and even tragic.