The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Do you ever read a bestseller or award winning book, and when you finish it, you sort of shrug? I mean it was good, but why so much fuss? This is how I felt about this book. This occurred to me while in the process of reading it, but I believe you really must finish a book to complete your conclusion.

(Which isn’t to say you should finish a book you don’t like – I don’t do this anymore. There are too many books, and time is too valuable a resource to waste.)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is an interesting book that tells the story of a family from the Dominican Republic and their family curse – a fuku.

The story focuses mostly on Oscar (duh, title of the book), but it also tells the story of his grandfather, his mother, his sister and his closest friend. There is also a lot of background on life under the former ruler of the Dominican Republic – Trujillo. A brutal, dictator by most accounts. These pieces of Dominican background are interesting footnotes (literally, most of of them are in footnotes), but I found to fully engage in the story of the characters that I had to stop reading them.

When I finished this book I shrugged. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I wasn’t sure what the point was. I felt like there was a point, but it had gone over my head.

It took a few days, but slowly the beauty of the story seeped in. What does it mean to live? How do we find our happiness? There is freedom in living authentically, and listening to the whispers in your soul.

I will also say this, Junot Diaz is a fantastic writer. The prose is insightful, full of imagery, and flows quickly from one line to the next. I underlined several passages that resonated with me. I chose the one I did because I think it incapsulates the entirety of story the best.

But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.

Okay, I lied. I have to share another line. What can I say, it completely cracked me up. The book is full of these nerdy references that I can appreciate being married to a gamer, but the one below is simple and mainstream, and pulls together a clear image of Oscar.

Dude wore his nerdiness like a Jedi wore his light saber.

(I spared you the Magic reference, but it was also fantastic)

Soooo… should you read this book…. well it’s not a book for everyone… I’m not even sure who I would recommend it to. I would say this, I wish I had read it with a book group. There is plenty to discuss in this book, there really are layers of complexity to what seems, on the surface, a simple story. So maybe that’s my recommendation, if you like stories that have layers, where the author is saying more than they are actually writing – this book is for you.


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