Junot DÃaz’s This Is How You Lose Her: Where The Half-Life of Love Is Forever
This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz's latest critically acclaimed collection of short stories, is wonderfully modest in scope and aspiration. Díaz does not aim to tell an all-encompassing story of the human heart; instead, he tells intimate accounts of the relentless disappointments of one man's heart. We revisit the “weak, full of mistakes, but basically good” Yunior from the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Drown; but, this time, Yunior narrates his own story.
Díaz provides brief snapshots of Yunior’s life, jumping in time, place, and person with every chapter. Each story provides a piece of Yunior's growing up. A younger Yunior looks at his older brother, “the hardest dude in the nabe,” and his absent, adulterous father, and thinks of himself as the smart one, the one with “an I.Q. that would have broken you in two.” A slightly older Yunior looks back at his male influences, his inescapable destiny, and says: “You had hoped the gene missed you, skipped a generation, but clearly you were kidding yourself.” And so we meet a bevy of different women, ranging from romantic loves to a more forbidden variety, knowing, if only from the book's title, none of them will last. So, like Yunior, we never fully invest ourselves, and as a result the women become less distinguishable -- and we learn Yunior’s more important struggle is the one to keep himself.
So much of what fuels each story and makes This Is How You Lose Her so compelling is the language. Díaz's voice deepens the story he is already telling, and the idiom in which he writes sets the tone not just for Yunior's character, but also for his circumstance. In Yunior's seamless transitions from English to Spanish we perceive his straddling of two cultures and two selves.
“I told her about the lights in my old home in the capital, how they flickered and you never knew if they would go out or not. You put down your things and you waited and couldn’t do anything really until the lights decided. This, I told her, is how I feel.”
Above all, Yunior, like his creator, is a storyteller. By the final chapter, "The Cheater's Guide to Love," Yunior is a college professor and an author, conspicuously similar to the MIT professor who created him. Whether or not he is Díaz's thinly veiled counterpart, Yunior is certainly someone worth revisiting again and again.