Sunday, 30 December 2012

This Is How You Lose Her

I adored this book, and felt genuinely sad when I reached the final pages. Love, loss and regret are the strands which pull it all together, and the consequences of the decisions and mistakes we make are at its heart.

Although its stories focus on Dominican communities in the US, the pain and experiences its characters face are universal and what make it so compelling a read. Díaz's touch is subtle and he hints at the layers his characters possess without detailing them. Take Yunior, for instance; he clearly has a fascinating back story and has achieved great things in his life in the US. Our focus, however, is on his peccadilloes, his attitude and treatment of the women in his life, and how these mistakes leave him alone.

Although the treatment of some female characters by males leaves a lot to be desired, strong females do emerge. Miss Lora, for example, stood out for her differences and independence; Otravida, Otravez was also a welcome break from the male dominated voices that fill the pages of this novel.

Most of the tales focus around love and carnal relationships, but what really gives this book its soul are the stories which serve as background to why Yunior has become the character we see, and fallen into the ways he's observed and disliked in others. Yunior and Rafa as boys and their relationship with their parents was touching. Family moulds us, and all could share the frustrations of willing a happy ending for Rafa while also cursing his behaviour towards his mother.

The format of this novel lent itself very well to a commuting read. The structure of several stories, jumping across time but all linked together, made it easy to follow and dip into; Díaz's compelling dialogue, meanwhile, swallows you up and takes you away, making you wish for more. I'd definitely recommend this to help pass those tedious train hours.

(Available in paperback, hardback, audio and Kindle from Amazon)

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