Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

What an amazing book. I've had it collecting dust on my book shelf for almost a year before I randomly picked it for next read and what a read! I cannot understand why I waited so long reading this modern, funny and tragic masterpiece, written in an up-beat tongue-in-cheek yet traditional style, which I adored from the beginning. There are some one-liners written in Spanish throughout the book, and while I don't speak or read a word Spanish, it wasn't a problem at all. It just added spice to the story. There are also a lot of references to modern American literature, films and other pop-culture phenomena, and while I got most of them, there were some I didn't get at all. But again, it wasn't a problem.

Yunior is the narrator of the story. The story about the Dominican-American nerd, geeky and grossly fat Oscar de Léon, living with his aggressive mother, drugged out uncle and pretty sister Lola in a ghetto in New Jersey. Yunior is the on again - off again boyfriend of Lola and he tells the story of this family, who believe that a fukú is looming over their family. A fukú is a Dominican curse and it does seem like Oscar and his family has been unlucky for most of their family's story.

The book is divided into several main chapters, dealing with the lives of Oscar, his mother and Lola. Yunior is very much a part of both Oscar's and Lola's life, so we also get to know him quite well, being both a by-stander and directly involved in things.

The main parts revolve around Oscar's childhood, his mother's childhood in Dominican Rebuplic/Santo Domingo, Lola's puberty/teen years, Oscar's and Yunior's college years and finally their vacation as adults in Santo Domingo.

It is a book about love, hate, coming of age, South American life under dictators and much more. The story is pretty straightforward and it evoked many different feelings in me. I loved Oscar and felt his pain when he, again and again, never had any luck with the ladies (as opposed to Yunior who lived his college years walking from bed to bed). I was mad with Oscar and Lola's mother, who loomed aggressively over their lives, being one of the most bitchy mothers I have encountered in literature, but at the same time I understood where she was coming from after having learned about her childhood.

The story has a flavor of magic realism, but the writing is a definite 21. century whereas Gabriel Garcia Marquez may feel a bit oldfashioned and Isabel Allende's books may feel a bit "female", this is very contemporary. So very highly recommendable and I wish I hadn't read it yet!


This is read as part of the Read Your Own Books Challenge.

11 comments:

Dorte H said...

Velkommen tilbage :D
Håber du havde en rigtig god tur.

Julia Smith said...

Welcome back from your big trip! Hope it was wonderful. I love the title of the book - good to know it met the title's expectations.

Louise said...

Thanks a lot Dorte and Julia, I had a great trip, but am thrilled to be back online blogging. Have much catching up to do, but am starting slowly, working my way round my fave blogs.

Literary Feline said...

I've read mixed reviews about this one and so haven't made up my mind whether to give it a try or not. Books that include magical realism tend to be hit or miss with me. It sure sounds good though! Thanks for your wonderful review!

Ruth @ Bookish Ruth said...

Someone -- I can't remember who -- said that I absolutely, positively MUST read this book. It really does sound like something I'd love. (Now I just need to remember who recommended it to me...)

Louise said...

Literary Feline - at least give it a try. Its not classic magic realism by any means.

Ruth - I wanna recommend it to you as well. A must read in my book, for sure.

Beth F said...

I have this in my TBR pile. I think I'll have to try to get to it this spring. I don't know know why I keep passing it by when I go to pick up my next book. Great review.

Vasilly said...

What a great review! I'm been avoiding this book but now I'm going to check it out from the library. Thanks!

Louise said...

Thanks Vasilly, it is really a great read and I hope you manage to get it from the library.

Michelle said...

I've heard so many good things about this book that I'll have to pick it up when I see it! Thanks for the great review.

Louise said...

Thanks Michelle, I guess this book is not for all, but I definitely liked it a lot.