Review: Love, loss main theme of emotion-filled book

Kathleen Duncan

Jan. 9, 2013 at 3:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2013 at 7:09 p.m.

Excruciating. Painful. Moving. Tender. Amusing. Heartbreaking.

In "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz, we experience relationships shattering under the pressure of lies, cheating, delusions, false hope and time itself.

Love and loss in all their facets are woven together through stories of young abandon, sibling rivalry, true heartbreak and family.

At the crux of it all is Yunior, a hopeless, stubborn man whose passion is as great as his carelessness with other's hearts. His life is defined by the women he loves and, inevitably, loses.

It begins with Magda, who is cheated on with Cassandra. "And that's when I know it's over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it's the end."

Nilda is his brother's girlfriend. "We could start over. It's all possible, but neither of us speaks for a long time, and the moment closes and we're back in the world we've always known."

Alma discovers his betrayal from his journal. "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."

And on and on.

It is well-written, colorful and vivid. The language itself is a vital part of Diaz's writing. It is true to his usual style with a bit of off-color language and descriptions that may take readers by surprise who haven't read his work before. But it infuses each story with a sense of honesty and personality that make them all the more engaging and memorable.

Mistakes are repeated and relived from first loves to last, illustrating how passion can blind us to our heart's desire again and again. The agony of those mistakes echo through Yunior's relationships for the rest of his life.

"This is How You Lose Her" is as engrossing as it is, at times, achingly sad. The sheer amount of pain endured by the characters will imprint upon you long after turning the last page.



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