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National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2008
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku: the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.
Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience – and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.
Also includes the bestselling short story collection Drown.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Kathleen on 04-26-08
"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride." It's a fantastic and great ride. The book is a journey in time and space, through New Jersey, the Dominican Republic, and fantasy worlds. Oscar, the main character, is a fat-boy nerd from New Jersey with Dominican Republic roots. The grip of that heritage is the focus of the book. The book is full of violence and profanity, both of which are used with purpose. The book's untranslated Spanish phrases and nerd-references to (for example) the Matrix, might describe a slightly unintelligible world, depending on the listener. But being an outsider is one of the themes of the book. The book's fierce in-your-face voice ratchets up the story's torque and pulls you along, forcing you to observe Oscar's pathetic, miserable, but ultimately (if strangely) uplifting journey. This was perfectly narrated and a great listen. Bottom line -- this is not a book for everyone. The world of Oscar Wao is not a joy ride. It's a jagged, gritty, but wonderful trip.
37 of 38 people found this review helpful
By Robert on 06-22-12
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (TBWLoOW) deserves every star that I can give it and its narrator. This is not a book I would have selected to read on my own. Had it not been a monthly selection of my local book club, I would have missed it and what a loss it would have been.
This is a book about a weird (just happens to be Dominican) kid growing up in Patterson, New Jersey. Coming from that part of the world myself, I can relate that much but not That much... I’m not Dominican and that’s a whole lot of what this book is about. TBWLoOW explores growing up in that part of the world and also the life of family members in the Dominican Republic under a brutal dictatorship. This book is about so many things. It’s about what it often means to be a nerd... to being a male virgin, to growing up in the New World in a family with Old World values. One might say the book’s about the Fuku, the superstition or curse of an insane, cruel dictator but that’s really only the thread that pulls all the fabric of this wonderful story together. TBWLoOW contains many stories that are all beautifully woven into one incredibly well-crafted book.
The passion and the authenticity of the author comes across in every page. There is humor and pathos sometimes in the same sentence but it is delivered so smoothly and, by the narrators, with such grace it becomes masterful. The narrators Staci Snell and particularly Jonathan Davis are extraordinary readers. The protagonists, POV and person change back and forth throughout the book. The narrators keep them straight for us in our minds and there is never any ambiguity. Frequent changes between first and third person can sometimes challenge the reader/listener; again, not here. The book is just a masterpiece. I am tempted to say read this book especially if you are _____ (fill in the blank) but that might dissuade someone else from reading it. This book has something for everyone.
Unfortunately, I read lot of crap. Just look at so many of my other reviews. This book just goes to show that we do not have to go back to another century to discover a truly gifted author.
51 of 53 people found this review helpful