I picked up Diaz’s collection because I wanted to give him another try. I was one of those rare readers who did not think Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was all that wondrous. I got weary of it early on. Sure, the Spanglish freestyle narration was dazzling, but the title character, Oscar, was one of those boy-men who obsessively dwell in the hermetically sealed world of sci-fi comic books, Dr. Who reruns and sword-and-sorcerer fantasy fiction.
Oscar, I’m happy to say, is nowhere in this terrific collection, which instead focuses almost exclusively on Yunior, Oscar’s wired friend who narrated The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The nine fully charged-up and chronologically mixed-up stories here mostly explore Yunior’s staggeringly scummy treatment of his girlfriends — his “hood hotties” — but they also riff on other kinds of love: maternal and brotherly; the yearning immigrants feel for their home country; the distinct emotional purgatories of the cheater and the cheated upon.