The backstory: This Is How You Lose Her, the second story collection from Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Junot Diaz, was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. Update: it was also a finalist for the 2013 Carnegie Medal.
The basics: This Is How You Lose Her is a somewhat thematic story collection. The stories are all about love or a relationship to some extent. Most of the stories are narrated by Yunior, the narrator of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (my review.)
My thoughts: After enjoying the writing in Oscar Wao, I was curious how I'd fare with Diaz's stories. I'm more drawn to story collections united by theme, and I had high hopes. I don't consider myself a super fan of Junot Diaz. He's a strong writer, but I appreciate his talent more than I enjoy his output. This Is How You Lose Her is no exception.
My favorite story in this collection was "Otravita, Otravez." It's the first story not narrated by Yunior, which was initially jarring. After a few pages, I had to revise my expectations. While part of the story's strength was its uniqueness, the story itself had was emotionally haunting. In many ways it falls in line with the rest of the collection: it's a love story, albeit one laced with sadness, and a tale of immigrants. What sets it apart most of all, however, is having a female narrator. It was refreshing and unexpected.
Part of what hindered my personal enjoyment of this collection was Yunior. I'm not a reader who needs characters to be likable, but Yunior makes himself incredibly difficult to like or even understand. Despite narrating most of these stories, the collection didn't feel cohesive to me.
Favorite passage: "My heart is beating and I think, We could do anything. We could marry. We could drive off to the West Coast. We could start over. It's all possible but neither of us speaks for a long time and the moment closes and we're back in the world we've always known." (from "Nilda")
The verdict: "Nilda" and "Otravita, Otravez" were the highlights of this collection for me. Both stories are the outliers of the collection. Fans of Junot Diaz will welcome this collection, but I found myself wishing for more of those surprising stories.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 224 pages
Publication date: September 11, 2012
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