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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz


An overweight nerd obsessed with fantasy novels, longing to be the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar “Wao” De Leon dreams of finding love. Unfortunately, his sweetness and comic book obsession more or less guarantee that Oscar will die a virgin, even if he and his family were not cursed by a powerful fuku that has tormented them for generations. Exploring the suffering of the Dominican people under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, the immigrant experience in the United States, pop culture, and the act of storytelling, Junot Diaz' novel packs a powerful punch.

I should note: the narrator is not the titular character. The story is actually told by Yunior, Oscar's college roommate and polar opposite. While Oscar just wants to find a true love, Yunior has many girlfriends (often at the same time). Oscar is out of shape and awkward; Yunior is lean and fit and oozes charm. In the life of his friend Oscar, Yunior recognizes a heroic and tragic figure, and he weaves Oscar's story into the greater fate of the Dominican Republic. The book is full of references to pop and nerd culture, and frequently footnoted with extra information.

This isn't the easiest book to read. The characters freely switch between English, Spanish, and some sort of slang Spanglish. Although I recognized some of the Spanish from my high school classes, I sometimes missed the nuance of what was being said. But I didn't mind, because the language choices gave the narrator a truly distinctive voice and represented the mixing of cultures that created both Yunior and Oscar.

Sometimes you can appreciate the interesting things that an author does with his words, admire his crafting of sentences and plots, but still not like the story that much. That's what happened with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I am full of admiration for the way Diaz pulled his story together, mingling American culture with Dominican history and finding parallels between them, but I formed no emotional attachments. I didn't find the characters appealing, and I was rarely invested in their troubles or their fates. Maybe it was the Spanish language gap, but I always felt somewhat removed from the characters' minds and motivations. My initial interest with the writing faded as the book wound on, and I really had to push myself to finish it through to the end.


3 out of 5 stars


To read more about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.





Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: Sailor Moon Vol. 8 by Naoko Takeuchi
2011: Uzumaki Vol. 1 by Junji Ito
2010: Writer's Block: A real eye opener
2009: Giveaway #12: Sorrow Wood by Raymond L. Atkins - WINNERS
2008: News: Twilight Fans Turn Into a Violent Mob

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