“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”
World Book Day came around at the beginning of the month, and once again I forgot all about it until it was too late: it was 7.30am, I had nothing new to read, my Kindle was out of battery and I had to leave for work any second. I couldn’t bear the thought of not joining in the fun, so I threw my copy of Junot Diaz’ This is How You Lose Her into my bag and headed out the door.
The first thing to say about this book is that it is truly, truly wonderful. I have no idea how I came across it, where I bought it, or even when I bought it, but every time I read it I’m so glad it ended up in my possession.
During the week following World Book Day I read this book, snippet by snippet, over my lunch breaks. Compiled of 9 short stories, the collection follows the life of Yunior, from the Dominican Republic, as he navigates life in the US. Most importantly however, they follow Yunior’s relationships with the people around him (with the exception of one, told from the point of view of his father’s love interest). Most of the stories deal with romantic relationships, some look instead at family relationships, but all deal with one common theme: loss.
Every time I read This is How You Lose Her I’m blown away by Diaz’ simple but stunning writing. His style sways between the beautiful, the comic and the tragic, but with a consistent sense of integrity and honesty. This collection features famous quotes such as ‘the half life of love is forever’ and my personal favourite; ‘our relationship wasn’t the sun, the moon, the stars, but it wasn’t bullshit, either’.
At their most basic these are love stories, but they are also so much more than that. They tackle ideas of identity as Yunior struggle between his Dominican and American identities, and inevitably they explore themes of race, with Yunior’s descriptions of the girls he dates heavily focusing on racial stereotypes.
These are love stories, yes, but this is not The Notebook. The central male character is no romantic hero; in fact, for the mostpart, he is entirely difficult to like. The female characters are not enchanting manic pixie dream girls. There is no kissing in the rain, no big finale. These stories are populated by flawed characters just trying to navigate the tragedy of love, loss and recovery, and the result is a surprisingly uplifting experience.