Book Review: This Is How You Lose Her

This Is How You Lose Her

I was going to tell you that I didn’t like this book that much. I finished it but I didn’t truly enjoy it. I was going to tell you that it was probably because I don’t know Spanish and Diaz uses a lot, spattering it through the story on almost every page. I love dark, depressing, unresolved stories but this one didn’t do it for me; I wanted Yunior to win at something, anything and the ending left me feeling…unsettled. I was going to tell you that there were moments I loved but overall, I wasn’t that impressed. Except that I can’t stop thinking about this story. It’s been two days and it’s still almost all I can think about. He got me.

I fell in love with Latino lit when I read Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. The short sentences, bright and colorful, danced in a rhythm I’d never heard, rising and falling like a funny story on a quick tongue. I came to the realization that while other literatures can be picked apart and quoted line by line without missing any of the meaning, when you read a sentence that grips you in Latino lit, it’s because of the way the author set you up. You can’t quote a line to show the meaning, you have to quote a paragraph. Everything is connected deeper, further, tighter. Words, like culture, knit together.

So I don’t know Spanish. I read it anyway. Some of it I could figure out, in context, but overall I was left with this feeling that I only kind of knew what was going on. The story was rolling along and, for all the words I was digesting, I still felt like I was an outsider to something. That’s an unsettling feeling. And it made me think about language and relationships and how you can be participating in life with someone but still not be sure what is happening. I wonder if he wrote it this way intentionally, to show the reader what it’s like to live between two worlds, two languages.

The ambiguity that I love in other stories, the harshness and beauty of reality, the ending that solves nothing, all my favorite things, didn’t satisfy me in this story.  I desperately wanted Yunior to catch a break, to get ahead, even a little. But he just couldn’t. Not even once. This language of hardship, this acceptance of suffering as part of life was hard for me to handle. I expect a rise and fall pattern in life and a life of all fall defies my understanding of reality. I was thrown by the sadness.

This book violated all of my expectations. It made me look at myself and my experiences in a new way. It asked me to try to understand something that I have never and will never experience. It was uncomfortable and unforgettable. I loved this book.

What about you? Have you read it? Did you like it? Is there another book you’ve read that violated your expectations and made its mark on you?

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Short and Sweet

I’ve been avoiding the blog again, as I am sure you can tell. The thing of it is, I have nothing to say. I have no words. They are used up, gone, poof! All day long, I talk and engage and parent and when it comes time to sit down and write something I find my word supply wanting. It’s sad and depressing and just the season I’m in right now. But before that gets you all bummed out I should tell you that I have the solution. It came to me last week when I was thinking about that library post. The thing that can fix all of this is … reading. Yep, I don’t read anymore. I can’t. I think we’ve talked about that before. But I’ve realized that I HAVE to read because I need those words flowing in so words can flow out. And since I like to devour a book all at once but can no longer do so, I’ve settled on collections of short stories to get the ball rolling.

I’m starting out with Tenth of December by George Saunders and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. They came highly recommended by the Scottish Book Trust (for the record, I am planning on reading all 25 books on that list) and just came into the library. I am really looking forward to getting back in the habit of reading and I know it will help me develop this habit of writing. I’ve also been reminded of the necessity of putting in the time to “just write” because that’s what will get me where I want to be. If you are having a hard time staying motivated, I strongly recommend getting some Chuck Wendig in your life. Irreverent and inappropriate, his hilarious, madcap rantversations (rants + conversations) give you the push you need to get back to the drawing board.

That’s where I’m headed, back to the page. How about you? What unfinished business are you tackling this week?