Review The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Review     The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

wow.

This story is about the life of Oscar, a lovable but unlovable (or is it just unloved?) nerdy fat writer kid and his family.    It is fascinating.  It is like a story being told in a bar with the story teller being unable to stay on topic and gives the best little asides to make sure you can follow along and yet you really can’t because it’s all way out of my sphere of knowing anything that is going on.   Get it?

I admit, the first 50 pages had me wondering if I was going to stick around for the ending.   I had to ease into the author’s style and once I did, it was a delight.    I bet hearing this novel via the audiobook way would be a great way for me to do this book again.  Although, I wonder if the footnotes are interspersed at the time of the footnote note or at the end of the paragraph.    not important…

So this family is from the Dominican Republic.  You will learn a lot about DR in this book.   This family has been cursed.  But, hey!  whose family hasn’t, right?   and how that curse keeps showing up in each generation – is it really a curse, or is it… just LIFE?  

SPOILER ALERT!!!   (Pardon my language mom, but I have to write this.)   Almost to the bitter end, I was thinking that this book was about sex and how the poor hero of the story never gets any.     We’re all f&*%-ed, but Oscar never is.   are, rather, he IS.   anyway, lots of sex in this and yet, it’s not a trashy novel.  not steamy, in the kind of way you think of a book that might be full of sex.   It’s got its share of violence, and passion; but not bodice-ripper nonsense. 

This book had me laughing out loud a lot!  and shrieking in astonishment.   and fear that evil politics exist today.   power, abuse of power, violence.  and LOVE.    there is love in this book, too.

a fascinating read, all the way around.   However.   If I hadn’t known what I know about The Lord of the Rings, there would be too many references right over my head.   In fact, I believe, I glossed over a lot of stuff in this book – don’t get me started on the Spanish language!  – and I know I have to read Dune and maybe The Fountainhead and I’ve failed to note all the other books that are touched on.   I have no idea what all gaming and fantasy and anime and other cultural references to geekiness I flat out skipped, but it didn’t distract me from the power of the story.   I knew I would have to confront a lot of that going in and I was able to get over it.  

so, 4 star or 4 and 1/2?     I think, I’m going with 4 and 1/2.     

[I just read the back of the book jacket and it is exactly what I would have hoped to write here:   Jennifer Reese of Entertainment Weekly says   "Terrific... Narrated in high-energy Spanglish, the book is packed with wide-ranging cultural references - to Dune, Julia Alvarez*, The Sound of Music - as well as erudite and hilarious footnotes on Caribbean history.  It is a joy to read, and ever bit as exhilarating to reread."]

Yes, I just might have to go get the audiobook…  Has anyone tried this?

* Julia Alvarez?  I don’t remember this.  see?!   my point is made.   and oh yea – what was all that about The Watcher?

10 Responses to “Review The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao”


  1. 1 beastmomma August 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

    That sounds like a roller coaster ride of a book!

    Yes, it actually gets entertaining and yet there is a lot of violence. Wait a minute – that makes me think of all the shoot-em-up movies I like. I think this would be a very tough novel to translate to the bigscreen but I’ve often been surprised. It might make a miniseries? Let’s NOT encourage it.

  2. 2 Jessica August 12, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I loved this book too, though I had a similar reaction to the beginning and the Spanglish. I love that there are so many references and nuances that you could immediately listen to the audio tape or reread it and not be bored.
    My review: http://thebluestockings.com/2008/08/the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-wao/
    Blue Leaf (notes on the book): http://thebluestockings.com/2008/08/blue-leaf-the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-wao/

    Great review!

  3. 3 softdrink August 12, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Okay, off topic, but I’m 1/2 way through Geek Love. Have you started yet?

    Softdrink, it is most acceptable to comment on or off topic anytime you think it appropriate. or not. YES, I have started Geek Love and I tried reading it while watching the Olympics. I gave up on both to fall asleep last night but I’m not quite to half point. I’m just past the point where she allows Miranda to sketch her and she’s looking for the freaky (ahem) lady with the money who has the proposition Miranda is thinking about.

  4. 4 softdrink August 13, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I stopped at the same point last night. I’m a little further today, and you’re spot on with the freaky assessment.

    YOU WIN. I’m off to try and finish this book before I read your review. ‘K?

  5. 5 Bookfool, aka Nancy August 13, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Well, I haven’t read the book and I don’t own a copy but your review had me chuckling, so thanks for that! Also, I wanted to let you know that the DVD arrived — wahoo! Can’t wait for an hour or so of free time to sit down and watch it! THANKS!!!!!

    You bet. I’m glad you won – enjoy the movie.

  6. 6 lenore August 14, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I read this earlier this year and also enjoyed it though I thought the narrator was a bit too preoccupied with sex. And I know Spanish but a lot of it was DR slang, which I don’t know.

    AH, that intimidates me that Spanish can be so slangful, too. Languages do fascinate me.

  7. 7 Nicole August 17, 2008 at 6:56 am

    I’ve been seeing this one around the blogging world and considering it. I enjoyed your review!

    Thanks Nicole! You’ve been reading some interesting stuff lately, too. I like reading your reviews.

  8. 8 Nymeth August 18, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! The writing style does need some easing into, but like you I couldn’t put it down after the first few chapters. It’s amazing how he could be funny and moving and horrifying all at the same time.

    Yes, I really loved how the pace kept quickening. I have another friend reading it and I keep telling her to stick with it…

  9. 9 Stephanie Pincson December 20, 2008 at 12:13 am

    I didn’t like this book at all. I didn’t understand the spanish phrases, didn’t care for all the sex references (is that all there is?) and couldn’t relate to any of the characters or care what happens to them. I got bogged down half way through and got very tired of trying to figure out why in the world he wrote the book and why his style of writing. A Pulitzer Prize??? Gads, what have we come to.

    I almost stopped about 1/3 of the way through and kept at it. By the end, all I could think was ‘What a wild ride’! I do understand the thoughts you have shared here and I’m glad you offered a differing viewpoint. I can’t say I’ve read enough Prize winners to have an opinion of it…

    Thank you for directing me to Linus’s Blanket; Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali By Kris Holloway is now on the tbr wishlist.


  1. 1 Review – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Juno Díaz « Regular Rumination Trackback on May 18, 2009 at 3:57 pm

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