Monday, April 27, 2009

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (6/81)

Category: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1/9)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008, which is why it was in my pile of books to read. I also went to a book club discussion about it.
The book is really difficult for me to describe. It is basically the story of Oscar, a hugely obese "Dominican ghetto-nerd" who is a character you love to root for, but at the same time he is incredibly pathetic and hopeless (and thus frustrating!). Oscar's family is from the Dominican Republic, although he and his sister Lola mostly grow up in New Jersey. Their mother's family did not survive the Trujillo dictatorship, and she herself fled to the United States as a teenager. Most of the story, including the history of the family, is told by Yunior, a sometime-boyfriend of Lola's who tries to help Oscar out of his depression in college. Two of the sections are told by Lola, but she only speaks of her own view of the situation, and she seems to be writing to Yunior, though it is difficult to tell.
What I liked best about this book was the writing - it was so much fun to read, even if it was hard to follow at times. Yunior throws in a ton of Spanish, as well as a tremendous amount of nerd-slang that I found really amusing. Most of it you can figure out from context, because it is certainly not explained for you at all. Yunior's voice is entrancing, in a way that I would not have expected.

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