Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2008
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.
©2007 Junot Diaz; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. and Books on Tape
"[A] wondrous, not-so-brief first novel that is so original it can only be described as Mario Vargas Llosa meets Star Trek meets David Foster Wallace meets Kanye West. [W]ondrous [and] original. … [This work] decisively establishes him as one of contemporary fiction’s most distinctive and irresistible new voices." (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is panoramic and yet achingly personal. … It’s Dominican and American, not about immigration but diaspora, in which one family’s dramas are entwined with a nation’s, not about history as information but as dark-force destroyer." (Susan Straight, Los Angeles Times)
"[A] book whose imaginative energy, linguistic volatility, historical passion and all-around love of life (and its characters) make it one of the best first novels of the past few decades. … A profane and sacred, playful and serious, light and dark, filthy-throated and bittersweet treatise on life as we need to know it." (Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News)
An amusing novel about a sci-fi loving virgin from Jersey, following him on his journey of life and love. For those in the know, it reminded me of a fictional ChrisChan. It does have quite a few Spanish words and phrases (some of which I wasn't able to figure out) and deals heavily with Dominican culture; while knowledge in these areas would enable you to fully appreciate the book, it's not essential. While I didn't find this book as good as advertised, it has a special place in my heart for talking about all the "sexy Dominicanas in Jersey City."
This audiobook was, without a doubt, one of the best listening experiences I have had to date. It is the rare combination of excellent writing and excellent narration. I was captivated, start to finish. I know that some customers have expressed concern about the amount of untranslated Spanish in the novel; there is no need to worry about that--even if you do not know the exact translation of the Spanish phrases, the context in which they are used leaves no doubt as to their meaning.
I am not a Spanish speaker but I somehow new enough to translate "Estoy sola! estoy sola! to "I am alone! I am alone!" Maybe it wasn't my own limited exposure to the Spanish language but the performance given by Jonathon Davis. At first his affected Dominicano accent is a little offsetting because the quality of his voice is so. . .well, non-Hispanic. But once emmerced into the words of Junot Diaz the reader quickly accepts Davis. And in fact, he does very good conveying the emotions of all the characters he reads.
This story so touched me in all its tenderness and passion. It is also a very enjoyable listen.
Using street slang, geek slang and making literary references a beautiful, grand story is told about a family and a country.
There are many Spanish phrases used, but not knowing what they mean will not keep you from understanding the book (my level is intermediate - I understood maybe 75%). Understanding them does add some color to the narrative, but they are by no means crucial to the plot. The meanings of most can be figured out from the context anyway. To say that it's mostly in Spanish is ridiculous.
The book is vibrant and the narration was good. It tells a much larger story than its length indicates.
I told everyone who would stop and listen about this book. I loved it. I cherished every word. I can't wait to listen to it again.
The performances were perfection. Staci Snell was exceptional.
I would recommend that before you listen to it, you go search for Trujillo and read about who he really was. I did that half way through the book and it cleared a lot of things up for me. I would have enjoyed the first third of the book more if I had learned about Trujillo first.
A review from me can't do this book justice. It's perfect. It's heart wrenching and feels so true. I loved and hated all of the characters and cheered for every victory.
This is the only book that I listened to 3 times back to back. The language is so vivid (both Spanish and English), that one can smell the air, taste the blood, and feel the pain of Oscar Wao's world. One of the literary critics wrote a review in Time magazine, and compared Junot Diaz to Philip Roth. I would upgrade the comparison. Mr. Diaz's language reminded me of the great Henry Roth. We can expect a Hollywood to follow up with a movie. Most likely it will be a pale version of the book.
Both readers are wonderful, and their performances add to the richness of the text. BRAVO!
Interest in Diaz' upcoming book edged me toward this selection, listener's reviews sealed the deal (Robert from Yamhill Or., and Casey from Phoenix, were both excellent). After years of reviews, there isn't much else to say, so I'll point out something I experienced.
I liked this book, it was different, a good crazy story, (who were all these mean people?) I think Diaz is a creative and original writer, but I couldn't figure out the Pulitzer Prize going to the same book I read. I didn't feel that Pulitzer power, didn't understand the characters or feel connected to them, thought the sexual focus became pointless after a while, the back and forth tossed me a few times--overall it felt static. While discussing this fact with the friend that recommended the book, he mentioned that the footnotes in the book are an important part of Diaz' process--where a lot of the character is developed. This is a similar dilemma with listening to David Foster Wallace instead of reading his footnote-laden works. Click! Between the Spanish comments I couldn't interpret well enough, and the missing footnotes in the audio version...there lies the problem for me! Books often loose something in translation--obviously the same holds true for partial translation and deletion of footnotes. I don't know if this will be a problem for every listener -- it is a very good listen and obviously enjoyed by most -- I thought my experience was worth mentioning. I guess we can hope for footnotes to one day be incorporated in the audio format, as well as pictures, drawings, and maps, available only in text versions, to somehow be available to Audio participants.
The culture, material, settings could not have been more out of my realm of experience and understanding, but the style of writing is so raw and feels so honest I felt drawn in by a sense of intimacy and within a few pages the characters were "my family" and I felt completely invested in their stories.
This started out like a modern day Catcher in the Rye (Hispanic version), which was fine by me. Then the author took the novel to an even higher level when he moved into Oscar's family history and how the family history was tied into the history of the Dominican Republic. The voices of Oscar's family members were powerful, and the performers captured the characters perfectly.
The book is filled with Spanglish, which enriches the reading experience and the English language. The writing is impressive.
This book changed my assumptions, beliefs and emerging understanding of Hispanic culture. One of the best books I have read and/or listened to in a long while.
This book had everything I look for in a book -- something to challenge me, historical background, tough chicks, macho guys, quirkiness, a really, really good story. Now I know a little more about Dominican history. This is personal. Very well written and with interesting character development. I saw someone make a comparison to A Thousand Splendid Suns, and maybe a comparison can be made..but they are very different.
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