Book Review: “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz


“The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (2007)

Genre: Fiction

Book Length: 335 pages (paperback edition)


Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who 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 fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim – until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last. (description from Goodreads)


“The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao” was a fantastic book! It was a book that was actually assigned for my Ethnic Literature class and I was really excited to read it since I had heard so many good things about it. I was totally surprised by the book, because I knew only a little bit about the synopsis. Instead of the book only focusing on Oscar, it’s more about the story of his family. Oscar, is a lovable character, but sometimes he can be frustrating. I could sympathize with him on many levels because he was so nerdy and picked on by his peers, family, etc. Oscar is pretty cool (in my standards) he loves Doctor Who, Star Wars, playing video games, and reading. (Yay he’s a Whovian!). But Oscar also lets people push him around, he doesn’t stand up himself, and has virtually no confidence. At times it angered me that he was so pathetic, but I guess it doesn’t also help that he is under the curse of the fuku.

There are many things about Oscar Wao that sets it apart from other books. The book is spoken by one dominating narrator, whose identity is eventually revealed later on. What makes this narration so unique is that it’s like the narrator is directly speaking to you, the reader. The book is filled with lots of vulgar language and slang, but these are the parts that enriches the story. The narrator also uses many footnotes that give background to historical events and cultural references. Whereas footnotes are usually boring, these are humorous and even sarcastic.

The book is written in sections, focusing on each character, and travels from Oscar in the present day (in New Jersey) back to the mid 1950s in the Dominican Republic. Each character has a chance to tell their own story and we get to see how awful the dreaded fuku really is. The writing for Oscar Wao is great, and Diaz makes a fine storyteller. He mixes fiction with the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, action, and etc. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Final Verdict:

Oscar Wao is a must read for everyone. It sets itself apart from many of the novels written today with its use of clever, comical footnotes, characters you can empathize with and its playful use of multiple genres.  5 out of 5 stars.

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