The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, what can I say but that it was great. Just a damn good read. The novel does what the title implies, describes the brief life of Oscar de Leon, nicknamed Wao. As the story of Oscar and his Dominican heritage unfolds, we learn that the de Leon family history is influenced not only by the history of the Dominican Rublic during Trujillo's reign, as told through the sprinkling of historical footnotes, but also by fuku, a curse that has caused misery to the family for generations. The novel moves smoothly back and forth between Oscar's life and those of his mother and grandfather's fuku immersed tragic tales, culminating in the end of Oscar's days and the lifting of the curse.
Man, Mr. Diaz knows how to effectively curse (pun intended!). His use of language brings the narrator to life, makes you feel like he's talking just to you. I also loved how the narrator wasn't introduced until about halfway through the novel. I was a little frustrated by this at first but it all made sense when I was finally introduced to Yunior. I thought this was incredibly clever and can really see why this book won the Pulitzer. Although he narrates the whole tale, it is not until Yunior is introduced as a character, when he meets Oscar, that it becomes apparent that he is also our storyteller. Finally meeting Yunior, a typically passionate Dominican dude, I understand what all the swearing is about (and geez, do I ever love some good cussing).
Just like our protagonist Oscar, I am an avid fantasy and science fiction reader and I loved, I mean LOVED, how Diaz used this genre of literature for all his comparisons. Like comparing Trujillo to Sauron! I mean, when times are tough in fantasy novels, they are BAD. It is pretty scary to realize that Tolkein and his fantasy and SF colleagues are never really far off the mark when creating their bad guys and evil empires. They do indeed, rather unfortunately, mimic the atrocities of the real world. And, in fact, Diaz makes a pretty good case when comparing the DR under the "Failed Cattle Theif" to Sauron's Mordor. It really pushed home the verity of the horrors committed by Trujillo and his henchmen.
And Oscar, poor nerdy, socialy and physically awkward, Sci Fi reading, Dungeons and Dragons playing, never been kissed, Oscar. You really feel for the guy. Who would have thought that such an awkward bookish guy would eventually have the courage and strength to free his family from its fuku legacy. I was rooting for Oscar the whole way. Willing the girls he fell in love with (rather whole heartedly and extremely all encompassingly) to love him back. Knowing Oscar comes to an unfortunatly end, I just wanted the guy to get laid before he met his maker. What a guy, that's all I can say.
Though a little dark, an amazing story about surviving and making it in this world, and about the ability to change your fate. Well worth a read.