The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz


Four stars, read June/July 2014.

This was good. Really good.

Be prepared for difficult descriptions of violence under the Trujillo dictatorship, and also for some Spanish phrases that aren’t translated. (If I’d been reading the hard copy I would have looked them up, but I couldn’t because I was listening in my car, which drove me a little crazy. Almost crazy enough that I want to go get the paper copy now and do some googling… But maybe that’s too crazy.)

I love the structure of the book, the way it goes from one person’s story to another, skipping around in time but feeling totally connected the whole way. Oscar provides the premise, but to me, the women in his family were the really compelling characters: I did not like Beli, but wow, did I feel for her. I loved Lola, could relate to her, wanted her to get away and get everything she wanted. I loved La Inca, wished she could have raised Lola and Oscar instead of Beli, who is horrible. It’s amazing how Diaz makes such a very specific set of circumstances feel universal and relatable, no matter how distant your own experience is.

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