Pulitzer prize wining author and activist Junot Díaz is beginning a reading tour to kick off the paperback release of his acclaimed collection of short stories, This is How You Lose Her, which was released September 3, 2013. The stories continue the narrative of Díaz's semi-autobiographical character, Yunior, who appears in both of Díaz's earlier works, Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
As the title suggests, the collection chronicles a series of disastrous relationships undone by Yunior's inability to remain faithful to his myriad of girlfriends. He blames his infidelity on his Dominican blood and the influence of his flighty father and tragically-fated brother, but even a careless reader can see it stems from fear and temptation. Though each stand-alone story only offers a brief glimpse into one moment of Yunior's life, the stories act like puzzle pieces, each providing more insight and understanding into the abrasive, witty narrator.
Yunior, for all his shortcomings, inspires sympathy but never asks for it, which is a major reason why one wants to keep reading rather than throw the book aside in disgust. He knows that how he treats his lovers is wrong but is unable to stop himself. The result is a lifetime of unhappiness which seems at once deserved and heartbreaking because Yunior is not just an extension and amplification of Díaz, but of everyone who has ever strayed in a relationship. He could be any of us. Despite that, one never quite finds themselves rooting for Yunior, but they will find themselves enthralled and amused by his mistakes and feckless attempts to make things right.
Not all of the stories focus solely on Yunior's failures in love. Yunior also relates watching his older brother, Rafa, slowly succumb to cancer. Rafa possesses all of Yunior's vices and more as even as he's dying of cancer he cannot stop himself from antagonizing his family and mistreating his lovers. Though he may not be the most likable of characters, the stories detailing his sickness are told with such constrained compassion, bitterness and somberness that one cannot help but feel deeply affected. Stories like "The Pura Principle" and "Nilda" remind us that no matter our faults we're all still painfully human.
What makes the book work so wonderfully is that no character is perfect. Even the strongest characters falter. Yunior's status as a womanizer is never glorified and his life reads more as a cautionary tale: This is how you abandon the people who matter most, this is how you ensure a lifetime of unhappiness, this is how you lose her.