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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao | [Junot Diaz]

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. 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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2007 Junot Diaz; (P)2007 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. and Books on Tape

What the Critics Say

"[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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (2594 )
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4.3 (1269 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 10-01-07
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 10-01-07 Member Since 2010

    Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent"

    I Loved this book. It was poetic and melodic and I would recommend it to anyone. The language is a great combination of Spanish and English, and street and poetry. I can't wait to read more fromt his author.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura St. Peters, MO, USA 10-11-07
    Laura St. Peters, MO, USA 10-11-07 Member Since 2005
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    "Beautiful and lyrical"

    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.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa San Antonio, Texas, United States 05-07-12
    Melissa San Antonio, Texas, United States 05-07-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Enlightening and so well written---"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cassie Melnikow 12-21-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Alright, but didn't live up to the hype"

    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."

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dissipatedfog San Francisco, CA 09-14-08
    dissipatedfog San Francisco, CA 09-14-08
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    "Helps to know some Spanish but not necessary"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clifford Westfield, NJ, USA 08-22-08
    Clifford Westfield, NJ, USA 08-22-08
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    "Wonderful!"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cecil PORTLAND, OR, USA 08-10-08
    Cecil PORTLAND, OR, USA 08-10-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Wao? WOW!!!"

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eve Andover, MA, USA 02-02-08
    Eve Andover, MA, USA 02-02-08
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    "Bravo! The best book of 2007!"

    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!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 07-11-09
    Robin 07-11-09 Member Since 2006
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    "A "dude" book."

    This book is probably better read than listed to. I find the bar is higher when you read a book on audio, and unfortunately, the reader for this one is badly cast.
    As happens so often with audio books, the actor's voice is much too "professional radio announcer-ish," to be believable as the character.
    Additionally, the book is filled with violence and "p-ssy." It may be authentic to the culture and the time, but I thought it was too similar to "junk-in, junk-out" sex and violence films.

    In between the machismo, there's some beautiful writing, compelling characters, and a sometimes interesting story in this book. Other times it rambles on and you can't believe it's still going. I can't recommend it to my friends.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carole Pivarnik Virginia, USA 12-26-07
    Carole Pivarnik Virginia, USA 12-26-07

    Watercolor Explorer

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow. Not to be missed."

    Modern, realistic, gritty, sensuous writing. I loved the layers, rich detail, and superb characterization in this story. A fabulous bittersweet story...I could relate to Oscar Wao on many levels....but also to his college roommate--the one telling the story. The narration is excellent. I know I'll listen to this book again. Well worth the price and the time.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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