The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Díaz
On the surface, Junot Díaz’s first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a typical story of the trials of growing up: an overweight, unpopular teen desperate to find a girlfriend and clear up his teenage acne.
Through snatches of ethnic slang and descriptive footnotes, Díaz masterfully weaves Dominican history, science fiction and New Jersey geography to create an intricately layered novel about a struggling and cursed family. Several life-changing trips from New Jersey to Santo Domingo let readers experience an immigrant’s depressive struggle through 1980s Preston.
Oscar envisions himself as a superhero character that wants to be the next JRR Tolkien. In reality, Oscar is nerdy, lonely, obese, and fated to be a virgin forever. Born into a doomed family curse by an ill and unforgiving mother and rebel sister, Oscar is condemned to his comics and dreams until one fateful summer.
The story is ever shifting from one character’s history to the next, covering three generations of bad luck and political corruptness in Santo Domingo.
Díaz’s developed characters and historical footnotes move the compelling story and bring unpredictable situations to life. The novel was declared the 21st century’s best novel so far in a BBC poll of US critics, and has won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Encompassing family, humour, adventure and history, Diaz’s novel is a new take on survival and what people will go through for love.