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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz~★★★★

Author: Junot Diaz
Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Release Date: September 6, 2007
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fuku---a curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations, following them on their epic journey from the Dominican Republic to the United States and back again." 

Taryn's Review: Oscar was a character that mirrored a person we've all met in our real lives; a person who is kind and sweet, yet grossly misunderstood by the people around him or her ("geek" was the label given to Oscar). Oscar desperately wanted what so many of us seek: to fall in love. However, his weight and love for sci-fi and video games tended to get him put into the "friend zone," as I've heard some guys call it.

While it appeared to be a seeming simple story at first glance, Diaz incorporated the familial stories of Oscar's mother, Belicia, and his great-grandfather, Abelard. Diaz also wove in the history of the Dominican Republic, which frankly, is horrifying to read. The Dominican history lessons also demonstrated how little so many of us know about basic world history that has occurred during our lifetimes and our parents' lifetimes. The history really grabbed my attention and it especially helped to shed light on Oscar's mother, Belicia, and the world she grew up in, as she seemed harsh in her interactions with her daughter.

Now, Diaz does not hold back when telling this story. The word choices can be crude at times. Diaz's narrator of the book, Yunior, freely threw the n-word around in the text. The word appears to still be used by Dominicans and Haitians from what limited googling I did on the topic (as if my Google history wasn't questionable enough, ha! Just kidding...maybe!). If you prefer softer words and gentler tones while reading, this wouldn't be the book for you.

Diaz's writing style was really captivating. It felt like I was listening to someone tell me a story, especially with the footnotes since they provided background information I wouldn't have known otherwise. The narrator choice was interesting, but needed; Oscar, his sister, his mother, his grandmother...none of them could have told the story without bias, yet Yunior could. In researching this book I saw that Diaz has another book that came out years before this one; I would gladly read another book by Diaz since I really enjoyed his writing style and the perspective he chose when writing this book. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao might sound typical, but really it's deeply personal and the ability to relate to the longing that Oscar has your heart understanding what Oscar was reaching for, even when you know how badly the story could end for Oscar.

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