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.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (TBWLoOW) deserves every star that I can give it and its narrator. This is not a book I would have selected to read on my own. Had it not been a monthly selection of my local book club, I would have missed it and what a loss it would have been.
This is a book about a weird (just happens to be Dominican) kid growing up in Patterson, New Jersey. Coming from that part of the world myself, I can relate that much but not That much... I’m not Dominican and that’s a whole lot of what this book is about. TBWLoOW explores growing up in that part of the world and also the life of family members in the Dominican Republic under a brutal dictatorship. This book is about so many things. It’s about what it often means to be a nerd... to being a male virgin, to growing up in the New World in a family with Old World values. One might say the book’s about the Fuku, the superstition or curse of an insane, cruel dictator but that’s really only the thread that pulls all the fabric of this wonderful story together. TBWLoOW contains many stories that are all beautifully woven into one incredibly well-crafted book.
The passion and the authenticity of the author comes across in every page. There is humor and pathos sometimes in the same sentence but it is delivered so smoothly and, by the narrators, with such grace it becomes masterful. The narrators Staci Snell and particularly Jonathan Davis are extraordinary readers. The protagonists, POV and person change back and forth throughout the book. The narrators keep them straight for us in our minds and there is never any ambiguity. Frequent changes between first and third person can sometimes challenge the reader/listener; again, not here. The book is just a masterpiece. I am tempted to say read this book especially if you are _____ (fill in the blank) but that might dissuade someone else from reading it. This book has something for everyone.
Unfortunately, I read lot of crap. Just look at so many of my other reviews. This book just goes to show that we do not have to go back to another century to discover a truly gifted author.
45 of 46 people found this review helpful
"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride." It's a fantastic and great ride. The book is a journey in time and space, through New Jersey, the Dominican Republic, and fantasy worlds. Oscar, the main character, is a fat-boy nerd from New Jersey with Dominican Republic roots. The grip of that heritage is the focus of the book. The book is full of violence and profanity, both of which are used with purpose. The book's untranslated Spanish phrases and nerd-references to (for example) the Matrix, might describe a slightly unintelligible world, depending on the listener. But being an outsider is one of the themes of the book. The book's fierce in-your-face voice ratchets up the story's torque and pulls you along, forcing you to observe Oscar's pathetic, miserable, but ultimately (if strangely) uplifting journey. This was perfectly narrated and a great listen. Bottom line -- this is not a book for everyone. The world of Oscar Wao is not a joy ride. It's a jagged, gritty, but wonderful trip.
32 of 33 people found this review helpful
This is a superb work of fiction. An amazing story about the culture of the Dominican Republic, a particular time in that culture (the dictatorship of Trujillo), a family from that culture, and a member of that family - the life and times of Oscar. The author does an outstanding job of transporting you to and through each frame of reference. Although one of the best books I have listened to, it is important to also be forewarned that this is a very difficult book, at times, to listen to and there will be times as a reader you will be traumatized by what you hear. Do not take this risk lightly. Similarly, if you are offended by course and vulgar language, this is not the book for you. The narration is as good as it gets.
46 of 48 people found this review helpful
This book has soul. Diaz creates an endearing, flawed group of characters, depicting them with humor and compassion. The narrator is so alive that he seemed to be a character himself. He truly is one of the best narrators I have heard, and my Audible library is large.
I am embarrasssed to admit that I did not know much about the history of the Dominican Republic before reading this book. Diaz wove the history into the story effortlessly and memorably. I highly recommend the book. It is one of the two best I have listened to, the other being The Hungry Tide, by Amitov Ghosh.
30 of 31 people found this review helpful
Talent hits a target no one else can hit, Genius hits a target no one else can see. This novel hits the target of genius. When I rate stars, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=great. This is one of those rare books that I can’t rate highly enough.
Within the first few minutes I was hooked and finished this book in a day. Wao has great writing and great narration. There are a lot of award winning novels that leave me totally flat. Most highly touted books in the Magical Realism genre don’t impress me at all. This is superb magical realism! I love the writer’s narration style and the beautiful non-temporal character development. I am an ubergeek and enjoyed the many geek references. I am not Dominican and enjoyed the Dominican slang and references.
This book has adult themes and language including F, S, and lots of N. If this might disturb you, you may want to get over it, or skip this wonderful book.
28 of 29 people found this review helpful
Junot Diaz has somehow concatenated the best of Latin magical realism, Star Trek, and J.D. Salinger with a no-holds-barred look back at the ruthless rise to power of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and the lasting effects of that legacy in the Dominican diaspora today. The resulting story is a riveting combination of love, defiance, and perseverance that will make you laugh out loud one minute and weep the next. Truly a fantastic piece of modern literature.
20 of 21 people found this review helpful
Diaz creates unique characters and enbues them them with violence, gentleness, and anger. Born in the Dominican Republic during the time of the dictator Trujillo, they escape the country but not the fuku (curse). The curse follows them for generations and is the legacy bequeathed to every Dominicano. Oscar Wao's family lost their wealth to Trujillo but retained enough heart to produce a 300-pound nerd who went back to the DR to stand up face the fuku for the one and only love of his life.
The story is full of humor, sorrow, street language and literary prose beautiful and esoteric enough to make one run to a dictionary. This unique combination of ghetto with ivory tower will catapulte this book to the best-seller list.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
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.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful
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."
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
This amazing book blew the roof off the house, and made other pretenders look like amateurs.
Diaz has huge ambition, and he delivers with every page. Upon finishing this sprawling, inventive, tour de force, I was not once bit surprised to find that it had won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize.
Do not be put off by some of the absurd and ridiculous comments posing as review. Some people shouldn't write about things they don't understand.
Strap yourself in and get ready for a ride with a master behind the wheel.
25 of 28 people found this review helpful