PW Best Books 2012: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Louisa Ermelino -- October 25th, 2012

Leading up to the November 5th publication of PW’s Best Books of 2012, our reviews editors are blogging about some of their favorites from our top 100. Here’s the latest post:

Junot, Junot, Junot….might the Diaz juggernaut be slowing down? Fat chance, although now that he’s been passed over for the Nobel, where else is there left to go? Will he end up like Alexander the Great, in that tale of dubious veracity, sitting down and crying because there are no more worlds to conquer?  Nah, Diaz will be fine because he’s a writer and if we can all hold our breath long enough, he‘ll deliver another book and keep dazzling us all. I’m betting a novel this time, if he meant it when he said “I hope to never write a short story again because they are incredibly difficult.” But he makes it look easy in this latest collection This is How You Lose Her and he’s disappointed no one despite the long wait. Junot has a voice, and a confidence and he’s angry and endearing both. He wants us to know who he is and where he came from and he does it with stories that take us to the world he landed in when he came from the Dominican Republic as a young boy. He’s the voice of the new immigrant, the one who made it; he’s Ivy League educated, he’s won the Pulitzer, he teaches at MIT in blanco New England. He’s outside his early world, remembering, adapting, absorbing, and telling us where he came from.

In This is How You Lose Her, we follow Yunior, who first appeared in Drown. Yunior has a way with the ladies but he’s a cheater, a liar, and his girlfriend, Magdalena, in the first story “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars”, considers him “a typical Dominican man: a sucio, an asshole.” And he proves her and all the others, correct, right up to the last story, the very best, in my opinion, although there’s truly not a sleeper in the bunch. “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” is where the hens come home to roost when our “batshit cuero” spirals into the hell of unrequited love after his email trash can reveals that he’s been with fifty girls during his supposedly committed courtship. The seven stories in between cover family (a dying brother), more women (including Mami) and in “Otravida, Otravez,” the narrator is a woman: “Yasmin, he says. His mustache is against my ear, sawing at me.” Yasmin’s lover has a wife back in Santo Domingo, and when he tells her about a fatal accident at the factory where he works and what would she do if he had been killed, she says nothing: “I set my face against him; he has known the wrong women if he expects more.” Unlike Diaz, who gives us all he’s got.

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