Book Club: This is How You Lose Her
We've got a clog of upcoming book reviews that's leaving my mental and emotional sewage system overflowing. There's just brain poop everywhere. And it's been there for a while. So. It's old brain poop.
Look, let's clean this up together. For a poop-free future.
Our Review - No Spoilers:
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
I don't know if you remember, so I'll remind you: our last published book review is the Neil Gaiman fiction novel, and this new book is a far departure from Gaiman's subtly fantastical, Ocean at the End of the Lane. There's a stylistic similarity when it comes to the descriptive elements in the writing, in that both authors lay some heavy focus on the details.
This is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories essentially narrated by the same protagonist, Yunior. There is one exception, however, in one of the short stories that is narrated by someone completely different and outside of Yunior's life.
In terms of tone, the stories are gritty and somber. It's not necessarily depressing, but it's more of a dryness in the air - like the characters have detached from their environment so that they don't have to feel too much. The stories all look through the lens of the Dominican American immigration culture, and the writing is robust with imagery and description. It's these three elements that set the book apart as a critically acclaimed best-seller. Whether or not you're blown away by the stories themselves, you will appreciate that Diaz's writing is raw and thought-provoking.
While our book club can appreciate why Diaz is as popular as he is, this book didn't electrify any one of us to the point of unquestionably recommending it to passers by. The characters, especially the protagonist, generally fell flat and didn't have much depth to them past the surface descriptions. The many non-main characters almost start blending into each other by the end of the book. There was one character, however, that we all loved, and that's Yunior's brother. I think it's because we got the chance to gain some real insight into him as a person, something you don't necessarily get for other characters.
The glimpse into immigrant culture in the US is moving, and Diaz incorporates a lot of Spanish terminology and slang into the prose, many of which you understand purely based on context, but you're not really going to understand all of it if you've had no exposure to Hispanic culture.
We had to take a moment to point out one short story that really stood out and was the group's unanimous favorite, "Otravida, Otravez." That's it. I'm not actually going to tell you anything else about it. We also very much enjoyed the short stories where Yunior's brother made featured appearances.
I think we all started out the book with fervor for the novelty of the writing and subject matter, but the novelty began to wear off when a lot of the content started to feel repetitive. Maybe if the book was shorter, we would have been able to end it with the same excitement.
In lieu of a "spoilerful" review section, I'm simply going to present five of our favorite quotes from the book - completely out of context, of course, to give you an idea of Diaz's writing style. I made sure that the quotes don't give anything away, but feel free to skip this if quotes make you angry, like how trailers make me angry:
- "She's sensitive, too. Takes to hurt the way water takes to paper."
- "Our relationship wasn't the sun, the moon, the stars, but it wasn't bullshit, either."
- "That was the summer when everything we would become was hovering just over our heads."
- "I can see myself watching him shave every morning. And at other times I see us in that house and see how one bright day (or a day like this, so cold your mind shifts every time the wind does) he will wake up and decide it's all wrong. I'm sorry, he'll say. I have to leave now."
- "One of the ex-sucias publishes a poem about you online. It's called 'El Puto'"
TL;DR Our Review
★★ and a half
It's a good book. We can't promise that you'll love it, but we can promise that it's culturally enriching and thought-provoking prose, and the fact that it's a series of short-stories makes it a low commitment and easy read.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (2014)
- Essays; Feminist Theory; Non-Fiction
Thank you for reading!
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