Review: There is more to ‘This Is How You Lose Her’ than what’s on the pages

Michael Bragg

Editor’s Note: The following reflects the opinions of the author.

In “This Is How You Lose Her”, Junot Diaz brings back Yunoir, the occasional narrator of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and his book of short stories “Drown.” 
Only this time, Yunoir isn’t just a young, overconfident, Dominican college kid, his character is fully developed. 

And fully messed up.
When Yunoir tells a story you’re immediately mentally displaced to his couch.  You’re drinking, listening to him vent about his relationships with women gone sour, his defiant older brother who refuses to accept the cancer that’s about to kill him and underneath it all, the Dominican heritage that for Yunoir strings it all together. 

“You had hoped the gene missed you, skipped a generation, but clearly you were kidding yourself,” he said.

Equal parts stoner kid, video game nerd, street-smart Dominican womanizer, family man and academic, Yunoir speaks in a vernacular that jumps from Spanglish slang to J.R.R. Tolkien references.  It’s writing that can make you want to cry for the poor kid, then a paragraph later make you laugh out loud with the description of a woman as, “b-tch makes Iggy Pop look chub.” 

For the length of time you’re sitting with him you’re hearing all the gritty details about the women that four of the nine chapters are named for – “Magda,”  “Miss Lori” and the others – you’re in his club.
You’re one of his boys. 

And sometimes, the way he writes it, you actually are Yunoir.  As the chapters progress his sense of humor darkens.

He’s grown up to a world that doesn’t completely accept him. 

In the final chapter, “The Cheater’s Guide To Love,” Yunoir is a tenured Harvard professor, but he still gets asked for ID every time he steps on campus. 

“I hope someone drops an atomic bomb on this city, you rant.”

It’s impossible to read this and Diaz’s other novels without starting to see Yunoir as Diaz’s alter ego.  “This Is How You Lose Her” isn’t just a story about a Dominican, or a cheater, or even of a boy.

It’s the biography of a storyteller.

Rating: Four out of four stars.

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, A&E Reporter