Reading books is fun. Reading lengthy, snooty reviews of books is not. So Cultist breaks down the biggest book releases for you without all the stuffy pretense.
This week, we read This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz, which releases today.
The Nitty-Gritty: This is How You Lose Her is the third book by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. You may have heard of his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which, embarrassingly is still sitting on our nightstand in the Acclaimed Books We Really Do Mean to Read pile. Oscar Wao won a slew of awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In a sentence: How You Lose Her chronicles the various loves and losses of Yunior, a Dominican-cum-Jersey boy on a perpetual search for love complicated by his affinity for cheating.
In a few sentences: Consisting of nine individual stories revolving around Yunior, college roommate to eponymous Wao, How You Lose Her discusses all the brands and degrees of love he encounters: love for Magda, the first in a succession of girlfriends he sleeps around on; for his brother, whose illness does nothing to make him any more endearing; for his mother, whose permissive attitude toward his brother stupefies him; for the last girl he betrays, his fiance, whose absence he mourns for years. It is well-written, fast-paced, and has enough dirty words to keep even casual readers flipping the pages.
The good: Much of Díaz's book is achingly familiar. Boy meets girl, boy cheats on girl, boy obsesses over relationship he sabotaged, repeat pattern. It's reassuring to see we are not the only ones who screw up our love lives without fail. If there's one thing How You Lose Her gets rights, it's the concept that "the half-life of love is forever." Sure, you kind of wish Díaz hadn't waited until the very last page to divulge this nugget, but anyone who has experienced anything close to love is probably nodding his/her head knowingly right now.
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The bad: We can hear the anglos complaining already: "Too much Spanglish!" The Sandra Cisneros quote at the beginning of the book lets readers know this novel is peppered with peros, mi hijos, and putas throughout its 213 pages. Many Miami readers will appreciate the Hispanic culture in these pages, but we worry about readers elsewhere. Okay, well, we don't really worry, per se. We just don't want to hear any whining about translation troubles.
The last word: How You Lose Her is easy to read, even enjoyable most of the time, but for all the turmoil in Yunior's life, we fail to make an actual connection with him. Maybe we're too steadfast in our "you cheat, you deserve to be alone" policy, but Yunior does just about everything he can to ruin his romantic relationships, so it's difficult to develop much sympathy. It's a good book, and you should read it if you have a beach day or a few hours to spare, but if you're going to go with something by Díaz, we recommend first taking a chance on Oscar Wao.