I've given up calling them reviews cos they're kind of not. I mean, I know to some extent all reviewing is just some person's opinion, but I feel like mine are extensively that recently, and more to the point, if I don't call it a review I don't feel pressured to talk about a book in any coherent sort of way. So this is what I thought about This is How You Lose Her.
Actually it was really great. I remember liking The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (when something has a title that awesome it's very difficult not to want to like it, at least), but then I didn't get around to reviewing it, so my sister did that instead. Apparently the major character from that novel is also the protagonist of Diaz's first book, Drown, which I've yet to read, and most of the stories in this collection are also about him, which is kind of really cool because you start off the book feeling like you already kind of know him, and then the rest of it just adds to that. It's sort of like it's just about Yunior's life, except that it's interspersed with other stories about other people. Typically I've taken it back to the library and so don't have it on hand for actual reference purposes, but the biggest thing I loved about it was that it was a book that was actually about something and I literally devoured it. Since having Benji the books that I read really quickly are mostly romancy/chick lit type things which have never taken me very long and I struggle and struggle through things which would once have taken me a couple of days, but This is How You Lose Her was in and out of the house before anyone even noticed it.
Although I have quite a lot of books that don't feature English or American narrators, I can't remember the last time I actually read one, and this was similar to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in that I really reveled in it being so much about the experience of being an immigrant and having so much about Dominican culture in it, as it's not a culture that I'm very familiar with. That is probably one of the best things about reading; it can literally take you anywhere and this really did - not just to other countries, but Junot Diaz is absolutely brilliant at putting you inside other people's heads as well, even people who aren't necessarily very nice. Actually, there aren't a lot of people in this collection (I don't want to call it a collection because it really feels like a novel, just in short story form) who are very nice, but a lot of them are trying to be nice, Yunior included, which kind of makes you forgive them.
As you can probably guess from the title, This is How You Lose Her is primarily about affairs of the heart, and mostly about Yunior's various relationships and the many different (but often very similar) ways in which they fail. It's also all about him wanting to write a book, but being unable to because he is constantly distracted by the women, or lack of women, in his life. It's not just about women, though, it's also very much about men and male role models in particular. There's a lot in it about relationships with fathers and with older brothers and how their behaviour can influence a younger child's behaviour. It's very interesting and incredibly well written and I really want to re-read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and go out and buy Drown now. Well done Mr. Diaz.
Apparently this not calling it a review thing works.
Other reviews which are actually reviews and will tell you more about the book can be found here:
Radio Boston (really interesting audio discussion with Junot Diaz)