“Your girl catches you cheating. (Well, actually she’s your fiancée, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter.)”
– This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
So this is slightly cheating because it’s actually the first line of the last story in this short story collection. But I figured it counts anyway, partly because it is a first line, after all, and partly because it’s representative of the kinds of first lines Díaz uses in all of these stories (for another example, “Miss Lora”: “Years later you would wonder if it hadn’t been for your brother would you have done it?”). It teases a backstory some big thing with big connections, connections that you, as you’re reading, have to keep going to figure out.
This is a collection of stories about a young Dominican man called Yunior and the women he loves, or doesn’t love well enough, or doesn’t understand how to love. He loses all of them. But it’s also about his relationships with his mother and his brother and his friends, and the way he and the other young men in his world live their lives, and how they’re expected to live their lives.
I read the last story in this collection first because my friend Liz (who writes about books and reading here) recommended it for this month’s theme. My first response was, “No. I cannot recommend this. Too much hating on women, too crass, too uncomfortable.” But I couldn’t get Yunior’s voice out of my head, so I went back. And read the whole thing in one day. And a picture emerged of a whole person, the sum of a bunch of parts. These stories can stand alone, but don’t force them to. They’re more complete when they’re connected.