Review – Audiobook: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
Genre: Short Stories, Literature
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: September 11, 2012
Format: Audio, 5 hours | 14 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate
This is a passionate, emotional collection of short stories all, except one, told through the eyes of Yunior, a young Dominican who has recently moved to the United States. The stories revolve around the various women in his life: lovers, friends, family.
The writing was vivid, often vulgar, but poetic at the same time. I could feel the gritty neighborhood where Yunior lived, sense his feeling of not belonging, of being in a cold unfriendly place, of being treated like an outsider. And then the thrill, the happiness, the beauty of home when, in the first story, he visited Santo Domingo with his girlfriend only to thoroughly mess up the relationship. I’m not going to review each story – the collection was short and saying too much would ruin them – but Yunior remained a somewhat likeable character even though he was not good with relationships and not the most respectful man on the planet.
I usually assign a rating from 1 to 5 to the books I read but for a number of reasons I am having a difficult time determining where this should land on my rating scale. If my only consideration were, “Did I enjoy the stories?”, I’m somewhere between a three and a four, but there is more to consider about this book than just liking the stories.
First off, this was an unsolicited audiobook and from the description I already knew it was not the type of novel that I usually choose to read. However, it has been receiving a lot of publicity and recommendations, the author had won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous novel, and I do occasionally like to stretch outside my comfort zone.
From the very first moment of listening I was immersed into a culture totally foreign to me. The stories are told from the point of view of Yunior, a Dominican immigrant. There is a lot of slang, street language, crude expressions and more than a few vulgar words. Knowing a little Spanish would be helpful but not entirely necessary. I could pick up the general idea through context. Also, the internet is a wonderful resource and, put it this way, I now know a few more swear words in Spanish, ones my four years of language classes never taught me.
I enjoyed the audio production which was narrated by the author. Each story began with a short intro of Latin music to set the tone and let the listener know a new story was beginning. The author’s voice adding authenticity and, with his Dominican accent, reminded us that Yunior was not from the East Coast. At times the reading was a little shaky and uneven, but the lack of smoothness was not a problem. For those who decide to listen to the audio, I recommend headphones if there are children around; this is definitely R-rated. I don’t mind a little coarse language but more sensitive readers may be offended.
This book is not for everyone. If you enjoy authenticity, immersion into a gritty subculture and don’t mind a little rough language, I would recommend the experience.
Source: Review copy.
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