Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I loved the narrator's voice, which mixed profanity-laden Dominican-American streetspeak with sci-fi and fantasy references. He conveyed a powerful sense of the loneliness that must belong to an overweight, undersexed nerd in an ethnic culture where such people are a laughable anomaly. The novel was even more compelling when it traveled back into the past and explored the history of Oscar's family back in the DR. This story was full of riveting scenes, like a father torn between bringing his beautiful daughters to a state ball, where the nation's terrible dictator (whom the narrator compares to JRR Tolkien's dark lord, Sauron) would be likely to rape them, and the dangerous indiscretion of NOT bringing them. The writing is so authentic, capturing the way people from the hood speak and think, but telling a story almost anyone can find something to connect to in -- who'd have thought Star Trek geeks, hip-hop fans, and Caribbean immigrants would find common cause in one novel.
Yet, I found that this book felt more like a patchwork of stories that never quite formed a cohesive whole. The story revolves around Oscar, but he never really becomes an engaging character, nor does his personal tale (mostly about his difficulties finding romance) ever assume the sense of importance that Diaz gives to the Dominican history and myth that he includes. In fact, I thought it was a mistake that Oscar wasn't given his own voice in the novel -- his D&D and science fiction obsessed perspective would have been quite interesting. Described from the head-shaking viewpoint of the narrator, Yunior, who is more of an archetypal Dominican-American male, he just sounds like a stereotype of a nerd.
Still, while aspects of this novel left me flat, it's so original in its concept and voice that it's worth reading just for that.
I was on the fence on how to rate this book. First off, I do want to say that one of the things I was wondering about was whether the fact that I don't speak Spanish would affect how well I would enjoy the book. I discovered to my pleasure that I was fine not knowing the exact meaning of the various phrases used. I could guess with some and with others it wasn't a problem just not knowing.
As for why I wasn't sure how to rate the book, it was really the ending that made it a problem for me. The writing in this book is wonderful -- it catches you from the beginning and really keeps you wanting to know more. But that's part of the problem for me. When the ending came, I felt it was a big letdown. I wanted more to it than there was. I didn't feel a sense of closure, if you will. Hard to explain without giving the ending away.
The upshot is that this is a great book, but don't expect much from the ending. And if that's more important to you than good writing and a good middle story, then think about whether it's worth the read.
If you tried to read the actual book and didn't get it due to your lack of Spanish skills this should help. You could listen and Google words as they come lol.
A very charming and enjoyable performance.
Audiobooks allow me to maintain my sanity in the office I work in.
I had no idea what this book was about, even from the description. The narrator captured the essence of the story and presented in quite and interesting and entertaining way.
References to the struggle of people of the Dominican Republic and how it still affects them to this day.
There's a LOT of explicit language in this book, so you might want headphones. Great but sad stories woven together about a Dominican family. Great book.
Diaz is magic with words. The worlds he creates in New York and Dominican Republic are colorful. The characters are strong and unique, probably representative of people of this time and history. The plot line is unpredictable, revealing of real history , and imagined events which believably could have taken place. This story should be re read to catch all the flavor
"Like" is not exactly the right word (hence my 4-star Goodreads rating), but I don't know exactly what is. It is a 5-star novel (it won the Pulitzer), and I completely see why. I listened to this book, and really appreciated the talent and skill of the reader. The advanced vocabulary, dialectic "Spanglish" and profanity, use of actual Spanish, and references to popular and political culture make it the kind of novel that bears academic study: reading it at a desk/computer with a search engine in one window and a Spanish translation application in another, making marginal notes, etc. Not having the time or ambition for all that, I was glad for the expert audible narration that allowed the plot and character development to flow and shine.
It was still educational for all my laziness: the portrayal of the far-reaching effects of living in a country controlled by a brutal dictatorship (the Dominican Republic under Trujillo) and the "diaspora" of Dominicans to New York City. [From Wikipedia: The movement of a population from its original homeland characterized by social coherence within the diaspora community and ties to the ancestral homeland including a myth or collective memory, the idea that the ancestral homeland is the true home to which they will someday return, and a personal or vicarious relationship to the homeland that shapes their identity.] All of these concepts are woven through the novel, with an emphasis on the idea of fuku, a bad-luck curse that follows a family through generations.
The narrative structure features Yunior, semi-omniscient, both first and third-person storyteller, who plays a significant role in the lives of Oscar and his sister Lola. The novel includes too many interesting and significant characters to describe, and you have to read/listen to it yourself to get the full affect. As far as that goes, the book is full of profanity, unsavory behaviors, brutality (especially violence toward women), and limited amounts of respite from all that, which likely provides a hyperbolic, dramatized, but not completely unrealistic of real life for members of this diaspora. I really liked it; your mileage may vary.