Tuesday, April 11, 2017

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, A Book Review

It isn't easy to follow up on a debut novel which won many of the biggest awards in literature (including the Pulitzer Prize), but Junot Diaz manages just fine thank you with This Is How You Lose Her, a collection of stories that reads like a collage of post-traumatic flashbacks. Fans of Diaz will be reassured that the master of electric prose hasn't lost a step; readers unfamiliar with him will be blown-outta-the-water by the turbocharged language that drips like poetry from the pages. True to form, Diaz doesn't hold back on any front; This Is How You Lose Her is honest well past the point of bluntness, real to the edge of surreal, and novel to the I've-never-seen-anything-like-this-before extreme. In short, This Is How You Lose Her is Diaz at his best, vulgar yet noble, streetwise and book-wise both at once:

"You, Yunior, have a girlfriend named Alma, who has a long tender horse neck and a big Dominican ass that seems to exist in a fourth dimension beyond jeans. An ass that could drag the moon out of orbit."

It is easy to get lost in Diaz' writing; he strings words together in such a way they seem to pop right off the page. But don't get the impression This Is How You Lose Her is all style and no substance. True to the title, This Is How You Lose Her is about longing and the weaknesses and vagaries of the human heart, but it's also clearly autobiographical, especially as far as the stories relating to Yunior--Diaz's doppleganger--are concerned. As with all Junot Diaz fiction, the immigrant experience is the matrix in which the story is constructed. No reader could finish this book without gaining insight into how it feels to be the outsider, the immigrant, the one who doesn't belong:

"White people pull up at traffic lights and scream at you with a hideous rage, like you nearly ran over their mothers. It's fucking scary. Before you can figure out what the fuck is going on they flip you the bird and peel out. It happens again and again. Security follows you in stores and every time you step on Harvard property you're asked for ID. Three times, drunk whitedudes try to pick fights with you in different parts of the city."

I will say that reading this collection made me long for the much-awaited next Diaz novel, in that there is no better way to showcase Diaz's immense talent than a full-length work of fiction. Diaz doesn't need the extra room to create characters that sizzle (he can do that in a paragraph) but a cohesive story in the setting of his prose and his memorable characters is really something to read--again and again.

Cheers, peter

Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.