This Is How You Lose Her (short stories) by Junot Diaz

As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.

-Junot Diaz

I’ve heard a lot about Junot Diaz lately, a writer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. His novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – which I haven’t read yet – won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and This Is How You Lose Her was a National Book Award finalist. Accolades aside, Diaz is a beautiful writer. His language has a wonderful rhythm, and he has a knack for capturing the best and worst of the human heart.

Diaz’s collection of short stories was recommended to me by a friend whose literary opinion I very much respect. The book sat on my desk for a long time, and then travelled with me from Korea to Australia before I got a chance to read it. I finally tucked it into a bag for a weekend trip to a friend’s wedding – which in retrospect was somewhat ironic timing, since all of the stories in this collection are about breakups.

A lot of the stories in This Is How You Lose Her revolve around what seems to be the same character, a man named Yunior. And in each of his stories Yunior loses a woman – usually a girlfriend – in a different way. Many of the stories are deeply heartbreaking. In describing the loss of a lover Diaz reminds us that losing a relationship can often be akin to facing the death of a person we love.

The final story – “The Cheater’s Guide to Love” – is the most heart wrenching of all. It covers in detail the years of despair that follow the narrator’s breakup with the love of his life (after he cheated on her). It seems he will never be the same again.

The overwhelming feeling I got from these stories is that the power of love is terrifying. The power we have over others that love us, and vice versa. We can give each other such joy but also cause such pain. This Is How You Lose Her is not always a comfortable read, but it is – all of it – beautifully written. And poetry of language should not be underestimated – as Nietzsche said, “If you don’t understand the rhythm you won’t understand the meaning.”

I really hope to read more of Diaz in the future.


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