I just put the book down, and my thoughts are all in a jumble. This is probably the point where most people say, "Junot, my friend, you've done it again." But I can't say that, because this is my first encounter with Señor Díaz. So instead I'm just sort of sitting here, staring into middle distance.
|I don't even have a cigarette for ambiance.|
Basically, this book is 213 pages of heartbreak. It's not end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it heartbreak; it's worse. Because you can't distance yourself from this kind of heartbreak. You've felt it before, and you'll relive it on every page: 213 reminders of all the times when you loved unwisely or were unwisely loved.
But before you take this as solid advice never to make direct eye contact with this book, let me try to explain why you should probably find a copy immediately and challenge it to a staring contest. (Not you, Mom . . . you would undoubtedly hate this book. Run away, fast as you can.)
The narrative thread carries through nine short stories. Most are told from the perspective of Yunior, a young Dominican transplant to the States with some mixed-up ideas about love. I guess he sums himself up pretty well on the first page.
"I'm not a bad guy. I know how that sounds—defensive, unscrupulous—but it's true. I'm like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good." (p. 3)
I know, I know. This is what terrible-awful people say. This is what serial abusers say. But this declaration is the key to everything. Because Yunior is not always good at loving, either romantically or as a son and brother; in fact, he's really bad at it. But in a lot of ways, his experiences are universal. And the reason we should read books like this, even though they aren't pretty and even though they break our hearts, is that we really need to remember this about ourselves: We are weak, full of mistakes, but basically good. And as broken as we are, we can still love.
If that isn't reason enough for you, read the book for passages like this:
"Instead of lowering your head and copping to it like a man, you pick up the journal as one might hold a baby's beshatted diaper. . . . You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel.
This is how you lose her." (p. 48)SOURCE: Díaz, Junot. (2012). This Is How You Lose Her. New York: Riverhead Books.