Monday, May 5, 2014

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Diaz
New York : Riverhead Books, c2007.

Oscar is a social misfit; he is interested in all things science fiction, and wants to become the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey with his tough-as-nails mother and sister, he is luckless in love. The narrator, who calls himself the Watcher, gives us the story not just of Oscar, but also of where he came from and the curse that seems to have followed his family from Trujillo's rule in the Dominican Republic.

This is a difficult book to categorize. It's smart and funny and heartbreaking. It's rawer in language and content than what I tend to read. There are several references to science fictional works and untranslated Spanish terms, neither of which I could really understand without help (thanks to Google translate, I've learned an awful lot of Spanish insults and swears). About the only thing I had in common with Oscar was a love for Tolkien. And yet, I was drawn into the story of this boy very much unlike me, and his family who could not escape a power-hungry dictator. I cared about Oscar and his sister Lola and wanted to see them make good. It's the sort of book I'm hard-pressed to describe an audience for, but one I would recommend for someone who enjoys unique, inventive fiction.

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