Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Author: Junot Diaz

Short Summary:

This book is about a boy named Oscar who, despite his very early success at the age of seven, was not a boy who was lucky in love. Oscar was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New Jersey with his mother and sister early in life. As a teenager he was overweight and seen as very uncool for his awkwardness and love of all things science fiction. The book not only describes Oscar's trials and tribulations in love throughout his short life, but also those of his family's. It is believed his family's streak of bad luck is due to the fuku, a Dominican curse said to be brought on by the dictator Trujillo.

My Thoughts:
When I finished this book I could only ask myself one question, "What am I missing?" This book one the Pulitzer Prize and earned itself much critical acclaim. I feel I must have missed something because to me it was just a story, and a mediocre one at best.

Diaz did incorporate a few original concepts in the book. For example, much of the book was written in English and Spanish, many times using both languages in the same sentence. At first I was intrigued by this and was excited to test my Spanish knowledge. However, the novelty soon wore off and I found the Spanish slang to be highly annoying. Another part of the book I was excited about at first was the use of foot notes. These were included throughout the book to help give background about the history of the Dominican Republic. I honestly knew next to nothing about the country and thought these notes would give me deeper insight. Like the Spanglish, however, I soon found these to be annoying and distracting and by the end I pretty much skipped them altogether.

I found I enjoyed the parts of the book that focused more on Oscar's mother, sister, and grandmother than I did on the parts he was in. I related a little bit more to the female characters of Beli, Lola, and La Inca then I did to the male characters of Oscar, Yunior, and Ablelard. I somewhat enjoyed hearing the history of the women in the family, but still didn't totally connect with their characters.

I found the narration in this book strange. I'm still not quite sure why Yunior, who was the ever cheating love interest to Lola and roommate to Oscar, narrated the story. He knew Oscar and Lola well, but had little or no interaction with the other main characters of the book. I found it to be somewhat odd.

This book wasn't horrible, but I closed it feeling very little. I was hoping for a great epic novel but was left uninspired. I found little in the pages I could really relate to and characters I felt no emotion for. Again, I ask, "What am I missing?"

Rating: 2.5/5 stars


  1. I liked the audio version of this book, but I had a hard time with the foreign words. I ended up borrowing the print version from the library as well to help me out. Sorry it did not work well for you Julie.

  2. I actually loved this book! Diaz' linguistic acrobatics are just mesmerizing - and I loved how the serious, tragic themes of idealism and love run through all the different generations of stories in the novel. Plus, Oscar is such a heartbreaking character - how is ideal vision of the world never quite pans out.

    I loved Yunior as the narrator too - a risk choice that paid off. Why do you think Diaz chose him to tell Oscar's story?

  3. I have been wanting to read this one but when I rented the audio from the library it was just so long I decided to get the book and then never got around to it again. I have not read many unfavorable reviews. I appreciate your honesty about it though! Not every book works for every reader!