First warning: Díaz's language is harsh, full of cursing and sex and in-your-face statements. He relies heavily upon his background and experience as a Dominican-American, and there were definitely parts of the book that I simply didn't get on a cultural level (not to mention all the Spanish lingo I had to look up). I'm not criticizing these facts; truly, it was a good reminder that I need to read more literature outside of my cultural sphere.
This collection of stories about love--how we find it, keep it and lose it--stays with you long after the book is done. Yunior, the narrator, tells tales of the women in his life. There's Magdelena, his great love, who thinks he is an utter asshole and cheater (turns out he is, which is no spoiler); Nilda, the young conquest of his brother, Rafa; Alma, the student completely opposite of him; Flaca, a single mother itching for stability; and Miss Lora, the teacher who breaks his heart. Díaz notes, in a line, the reality for most couples: “Our relationship wasn’t the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it wasn’t bullshit either.” (19)
A few chapters delve into Yunior's life outside of romantic relationships. We learn about his continuous, competitive battle with his brother for who is the strongest man, the most obedient son, the better person. We learn about Yunior's parents and what it's like to grow up in a world where you're consistently the outsider. Particularly in the final chapter, Díaz captures the fact that in all our relationships, patterns exist. For Yunior, it goes like this: dizzy lust, some level of love, disconnect and then regret, loneliness and sorrow. Díaz writes, “That’s about it. In the months that follow you bend to the work, because it feels like hope, like grace—and because you know in your lying cheater’s heart that sometimes a start is all we ever get.” (213) Will Yunior continue to destroy his relationships? We don't know. Will he climb of the hole he dug himself? We don't know, because that's how life goes. You can't reverse bad behavior; you can only try to avoid repeating it, which is one of the most difficult things to do.
This Is How You Lose Her will force readers to reflect upon romantic choices, patterns of mistake, issues of lost identity, sibling relationships and much more. Well done.