The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot_wao_coverI just finished this book last night, and really enjoyed it because it’s not something I normally would pick up. It actually came to me as a recommendation, which is an obvious hit or miss. This was a major hit!

The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao written by Junot Diaz. It follows the life of Oscar de Leon a nerdy, sci-fi lovin’ outcast that wants nothing more than to write his sci-fi and find love. Unfortunately, fate is working against him. His family is cursed by the fuku, which is an ancient hex from the Dominican Republic that has plagued his family for years.

The book jumps around and gives intimate details about Oscar and his family. The narrator changes too from the “Watcher” (who turns out to be Oscar’s friend Yunior) and to Lola and back to the “Watcher”.  I got a good sense of the fuku curse and just how malevolent it is. Most of Oscar’s family eventually succumbs to the curse. But the book isn’t so much about the curse or if the curse is even real. The book actually focuses on life. How life happens. The choices made and their consequences (both good and bad). For Oscar, he makes some bad choices along the way. For example, he’s desperate for love and falls for these girls that lead him on and only result in his heart being broken. These string of heart breaks result in his own failed suicide attempts. These are some of the darker passages, but there are glimpses of humor that Diaz uses alleviate weight of the situation.

Interesting part of this novel is not plot related but how it is written. Diaz uses contemporary English, Spanish, and ghetto slang to tell the story. My Spanish is a little rusty, but the context was there to draw my own conclusions. The best part of this book is that Diaz uses sci-fi metaphors to illustrate Oscar and other characters. Everything from the Watchmen to Dune to the X-Men is covered in some capacity. It’s woven well into the story.

My only critique of this novel would be that there’s not enough Oscar. Diaz does a great job bringing Oscar to life. I guess I would have enjoyed reading more about his adventures or misadventures…maybe less on the other family members (although Lola and Oscar grandfather are interesting, deep characters almost worthy of their own novel).

I highly recommend this book based on its fresh approach on narration, humor balanced with dark serious issues, and just the amount of stories I learned about the Dominican Republic!

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