This Is How You Lose Her

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek). His first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic. 

Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”


Yunior does not have the best role models for enduring love in his life.  20 years ago his mother had left her husband of five years behind in the Dominican Republic, and moved to New Jersey to pursue a degree.  She hadn’t been able to afford tuition after her second year, and began working as a nurse in the local hospital.  It was there that she meets another Dominican, Michael, undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.  They grew close as first their shared background, then physical attraction keep drawing them together.  They began an affair that lasted until Michael’s cancer went into remission, and he left the hospital.  She got pregnant, and after a failed attempt to convince Michael to leave his wife, allows him to adopt the child and returns to the Dominican Republic.

Yunior sees her once a year on her birthday.

Michael does his best to be a good father.  He sends Michael to the best schools in the country, gives him everything he asks for, buys him baseball equipment and supports him as he excels in the sport.  Michael’s wife, Magdalena discovered that Yunior was her husband’s son when they adopted him, and while she stayed in the marriage she lost all faith in first her husband, then grew to label all Dominican men as cheaters.  She tells Yunior that he needs to be different, to be better despite this.  He must redeem his people.

Yunior takes her words to heart, and swears that when he finds love he will cling to it.  When he’s ten years old, his father’s cancer returns, this time for good.  Michael is given to the care of Miss Lora.  Even after Michael dies and the funeral arrangements are taken care of, Magdalena keeps Miss Lora in their home, saying that she makes a much better mother than herself.  Yunior loves Miss Lora, and how she loves him no matter who his parents weren’t.  Even as he grows into a teenager, she stays as a live-in tutor, and then a companion to Magdalena when Yunior moves out for University life.

As a young adult, Yunior still remembers his adopted mother’s expectations and searches for love.  His first girlfriend, Alma claims to love him, and he loves her as well, but all too soon they break up.  Alma says that she simply fell out of love, and Yunior accepts her decision.

Several girlfriends later, Yunior finally meets The One.  By this time he is a graduate student, working towards being a marriage councilor, and Kelly is the receptionist at the clinic where he is completing an internship.  Kelly is pregnant.  The father of the baby had left her, and she was preparing to raise her child on her own.  They fell in love, and were married a week before the baby was born.

They named her Ami, and spend the next few months learning to function as a family.

Then one night Ami dies of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Kelly finds her body in the morning, and quickly spirals into a deep depression, blaming herself for not checking on her Ami more often throughout the night.

Yunior tries to persuade her that it isn’t her fault, but Kelly vows to never have children again, and continues to struggle with her depression.  Then one night when Yunior returns home from work, Kelly has packed her belongings and disappeared.

He never sees her again.


One response to “This Is How You Lose Her

  1. Pingback: This Is How you Leave Her, Junot Díaz | mkatzmckim·

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