This is How you Lose Her, by Junot Diaz. I heard great thing about Diaz’ award-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, so I was keen to read This is How You Lose Her. But it didn’t work for me as well as I’d hoped. Yunior, the main character, is a swaggering, macho man who tells stories of his many lovers. The litany of his conquests and his infidelities quickly becomes tiresome. Somewhere inside the posturing is a more rounded character but his better qualities are not obvious enough. We’re told that he becomes a college professor and an author, though the qualities those roles would require are also hidden.
The most affecting stories are those involving his family, especially his older brother, Rafa. The two-way alienation of the immigrant family in the big North American city is conveyed well. Even as man of mature years, Junior is still stopped by the police because he looks suspicious.
The book is peppered with Spanish phrases and I wasn’t patient enough to plough through all of them. Of course, you can intuit what a lot of them mean from the context, but it still makes the book less accessible than it could have been.
When it works, though, the style flows well.
I must have been smoking dust, because I thought we were fine those first couple of days. Sure, staying locked up in my abuelo’s house bored Magda to tears, she even said so—I’m bored, Yunior—but I’d warned her about the obligatory Visit with Abuelo. I thought she wouldn’t mind; she’s normally mad cool with the viejitos. But she didn’t say much to him. Just fidgeted in the heat and drank fifteen bottles of water. Point is, we were out of the capital and on a guagua to the interior before the second day had even begun. The landscapes were superfly—even though there was a drought on and the whole campo, even the houses, was covered in that red dust. There I was. Pointing out all the shit that had changed since the year before. The new Pizzarelli and the little plastic bags of water the tigueritos were selling. Even kicked the historicals. This is where Trujillo and his Marine pals slaughtered the gavilleros, here’s where the Jefe used to take his girls, here’s where Balaguer sold his soul to the Devil. And Magda seemed to be enjoying herself. Nodded her head. Talked back a little. What can I tell you? I thought we were on a positive vibe.
The party animals are a group of mainly young people who are involved in party politics as researchers, lobbyists and Members of Parliament. There are backroom deals, affairs, betrayals, and plenty of insights into how government works. Although you have to keep in mind that it’s a dramatization that takes liberties, viewers who have read newspapers will not be surprised at the things purported to take place behind the scenes. Ashika Chandrimani (Shelley Conn) is having an affair with her boss James Northcote (Patrick Baladi) while she is being lured away from her job and groomed for political stardom. Researcher Danny Foster (Matt Smith) works for a clever but troubled and frequently ungrateful MP (Jo Porter, played by Raquel Cassidy). He struggles with his unrequited passion for his officemate, Kirsty MacKenzie (Andrea Riseborough).