In 2008 I declared Junot Diaz my author discovery of the year for his The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Since then, it’s been pretty much silence from his corner of the authorial world. I did catch a nifty short story in a magazine, but I’ve really been waiting for the novel. This Is How You Lose Her is not that novel. It’s a collection of short stories linked by a first person character fumbling his way through a series of failed romances. It’s got all the energetic, hilarious, and heart-wrenching storytelling of Oscar, though. And once again, Diaz carries us from the shores of the U.S. to the Dominican Republic and back as passion rules of experience and reason over and over and over.
Though the stories come mainly from male points of view, and it’s the men who are the biggest cads and deceivers of self and their paramours, plenty of women let their hearts get the better of them. And not only men and women, but children endure the consequences of their parents’ misguided infatuations.
In the end, Diaz gives us nothing new (How could he?) about how it is you lose her (or him) You don’t commit. You play around. Your timing stinks–you’re ready, she’s not, or vice-versa. You overcommit and act needy. But this isn’t a handbook for romance, nor is intended to be, no matter what the title might imply. This is an exploration by a master of prose as he takes you into the deepest recesses of the human, where you’ll live in awe and delight for page after page after page.
As for that novel? No, this ain’t it, but I ain’t complaining either.