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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  158,348 Ratings  ·  15,078 Reviews
This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

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
...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published September 6th 2007 by Riverhead Books (first published 2007)
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Gabriela Yes. Because Diaz has no difficulty from weaving a comprehensible story from two languages without making you want to check a dictionary. Because the…moreYes. Because Diaz has no difficulty from weaving a comprehensible story from two languages without making you want to check a dictionary. Because the story of Oscar's life is nothing without the background remembrance of Abelard, Beli, Lola wondrous' lives. Because you can't figure out from sentence 2 who narrates this book and this gives the book that je ne sais quoi that keep you going. Because there are far too many atrocities committed by dictators all over the world that we have no clue about and that we are bound to know and to prevent from happening. And also because it's not our duty to decide whether one author or the other deserve the awards they receive - what makes you feel like you're qualified to judge upon this?!(less)
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Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
69th out of 5,614 books — 25,776 voters
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53rd out of 7,338 books — 18,017 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cameron
Feb 15, 2009 Cameron rated it did not like it
How this book won the Pulitzer Prize AND the National Book Critics Circle is beyond me. It's terrible. Here's the review I wrote when it came out. I stand by this completely. If someone says they read this and liked it, punch them in the throat. (I'm kidding, naturally.)

Review of Junot Diaz’s first novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” published Oct. 7, 2007
Imagine, if you will, that seven years after publishing "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," Ernest Hemingway decided to ex
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Malbadeen
Oct 01, 2008 Malbadeen rated it it was amazing
I want to know all about your family, your childhood, your grandparents, their childhood, etc, etc, I want to know where you lived, what food you ate, what games you played or didn't play. I want to know why this is important to you or that is not. Which is why I LOVED this book! Junot Diaz takes 300+ pages to tell a story about a boy that wants to be kissed and the kiss MATTERS because we know his family, we know his friends, we know their superstitions and their pains, and their loses and thei ...more
The Crimson Fucker
Feb 22, 2009 The Crimson Fucker rated it it was amazing
Ok, I’m writing a review of this book right now or I’ma die trying goddamn it!
1 HOUR LATER

I got nothing! I’ve deleted like 20 paragraphs!

1 HOUR LATER!!! 2 bruises in my forehead, kind of dizzy, I’ve cursed the gods of knowledge for being born without literary talent!! And 0 review!


Oh god!!! I give up!!! This is all I got!!! This book is awesome!!! Is a nerdy dude being nerdy as hell and not getting pussy!! Even tho he desperately wants it!! he watches Akira which I think is kind of cool! he wa
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Andy
Dec 24, 2007 Andy rated it it was ok
I bought Oscar Wao as a birthday gift for my mother in October based on scores of sterling reviews. She read it, gave it a mild thumbs-up (probably just being nice) and handed it off to me. Now having read it, I'm pretty mortified I thought this book would be something she might like.

The critical consensus seemed to be that Junot Diaz is a good writer, and he picked a good story to tell here in his first novel. But I found this book lacking on both counts. I found the writing lazy and unexpress
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Dan
Jul 18, 2008 Dan rated it did not like it
Shelves: never_finished
Soon after I started reading this book, I also started reading Housekeeping vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby. In it's preface, Hornby discusses why reading has fallen by the wayside as of late. A lot of people associate reading with boredom because to most, it feels like a chore to get through novels. If people would just read what they enjoyed, then they would begin again to see the pleasures of reading and thus, do more of it (he even makes a point that someone who reads only The Economist and th ...more
Cassy
Honestly, if someone had warned me that this book would barrage me, page after page, line after line, clause after clause, with obscure dorky references, Dominican Republican history lessons, and Spanish colloquialisms, I may not have picked it up.*

But I am glad I did.

It is comforting to realize that on the scale of nerd-dom, I fall on the light end. I could follow the shout-outs to science fiction authors, as well as the Lord of the Rings allusions (of which there were many). But I was lost fo
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David Abrams
Apr 10, 2008 David Abrams rated it really liked it
Meet Oscar de Leon, dubbed "Oscar Wao" by bullies who liken him to the foppish Oscar Wilde. Our Oscar is a fat, virginal Dominican-American teenager who carries a Planet of the Apes lunchbox to school, spends hours painting his Dungeons & Dragons miniatures, and who knows "more about the Marvel Universe than Stan Lee." If Nerd was a country, Oscar would be its undisputed king. Oscar is the kind of kid—sweaty, mumbles to himself, inevitably invades personal space, probably has bad breath—we w ...more
Jason
Sep 18, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dominicans, Americans, Dominican-Americans
Recommended to Jason by: Susan Clearfield
A lot of people seem to either hate or love this book. Most people get irritated with misleading title, the hard-to-follow narration/storyline, but mostly with the eclectic use of spanglish that is scattered throughout the book and with no footnote, i might add!!!

In an interview, Junot Diaz said that he offered up the Spanish without translation because he wanted to give English readers an idea of the immigrant experience. The spanish in this book reflects the immigrant experience. The alienati
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Dolors
Jul 02, 2014 Dolors rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of footnotes and silenced history
Shelves: read-in-2014
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold.” J.R.R. Tolkien.

Oscar Wao is a wonder of nature. A nerd. Weirdo. Freak. This is the story of an outcast and his travails. A free spirit who speaks in sci-fi gibberish and aspires to become the Dominican J.R.R.Tolkien. His isolation is as massive as his 307 pounds and
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Darth J
Feb 24, 2016 Darth J rated it did not like it
Recommended to Darth J by: G
Garbage



This book was recommended to me by my cousin so I thought I would like it. I was so wrong. All that's here is childish profanity, body-shaming, and portraying minorities is stereotypical ways. For an author who is so lauded, I am left confused at what he has to offer.



It all seemed so forced and inorganic for something that was supposedly based on the author's past that it felt like a poorly drawn cartoon that fifth graders would make as if they were aiming to create the next South Park.
Tatiana
Nov 04, 2013 Tatiana rated it it was ok
Shelves: foreign-lands, 2013
Not sure what was so wondrous about Oscar's life.
Brian Yahn
Apr 08, 2016 Brian Yahn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Junot Diaz writes with a voice of power that's so unique, so enjoyable, but at the same time, realistic. The prose takes you hook, line, and sinker through this gut-wrenching Dominican tragedy, and before you know it, it's over, and you're saying to yourself, "You know, the Pulitzer people... they really got it write this time."

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao isn't just the best book of 2007, it's one of the best ever.
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

"WAHHHHHH! My life is so horrible!! I'm 100+ pounds overweight, have no friends, and have never gotten laid!! Especially to some fine b!tch with huge tits! The one time I "tried", the girl was in an abusive relationship with a d-bag. I was TOTALLY the Nice Guy; she should have gone with ME!!! Now I will whine and do nerdy things, and occasionally mention them so that the cover blurb saying I'm the Dominican Tolkien won't be 100% inaccurate."

If this is what you want to read, go ahea
...more
Kim
Jan 08, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
TBWLOOW would have been a ‘good read’, I honestly believe that, but I don't know… something happened along the way.

Maybe it was the fact that I started this during the holidays, and that's not fair to any book, I'm the biggest wench from November 15th to January 15th. I should limit my reading to People magazine or maybe some old Three's Company scripts... I don't know, I haven't figured out the system just yet.

Maybe it was my utter lack of knowledge about the political turmoil that is the Domi
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Annalisa
Sep 21, 2012 Annalisa rated it did not like it
These are the reasons I'm abandoning this book:

1. It's crude. And it's not just the overuse of the f word I'm over. The sex and violence is crude too. There's love that's personal and emotional and touches something deep down inside. And then there's banal sex that devalues human connection and emotion, the kind of thing someone who was desensitized to real relationships in preference of porn would write. This is the later. Even inexperienced Oscar's interest in women is banal and of no depth.

2.
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Patrick
Aug 26, 2008 Patrick rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who don't think they'd like the story of an immigrant family's journey to the states
Recommended to Patrick by: Kevin Waterman
Hype can really change the way you perceive a book. Although the buzz for 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' has been steadily building since it was released almost a year ago, the book I picked up at the bookstore had a big, gold starburst attached to it reading 'WINNER - 2008 Pulitzer Prize', and had been brandished 'THE BEST BOOK I EVER READ' by no less authority than my friend Kevin right here on this very website.

It's almost not fair, the way we build up these books, or movies, or othe
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Michael
I have tended to neglect the Latin American masters of magical realism because of foolish biases in expectation. For my taste I stubbornly clung to a preference for outright science fiction or full-fledged fantasy over some half-way order of things or a sporadic supernatural or otherworldly force of causality in a narrative. But I am changing my ways under the onslaught of talented writers who make the magical realism approach work well. Like with this one, where Diaz gets me onboard already in ...more
Roy
May 29, 2009 Roy rated it it was amazing
This book is a true wonder and treasure, the very definition of a 5 star read. I'm placing it in the exhalted position of one of my 3 favorite books of all time, sitting alongside The World According to Garp and Love in the Time of Cholera. It is a magnificent chronicle of a Dominican-American family and the fuku that haunts them throughout generations, with its main focus on poor Oscar, a heavyset nerd personified in eternal search for love, preferably the variety that is accompanied by sex. Th ...more
Mariel
Aug 29, 2011 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I fell in love again
Recommended to Mariel by: footnote historians. Foot like Achilles
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao spoke my language of self consciousness. The parts of yourself that you wish weren't there and cannot forget about. They could perch on your shoulder like not so polar opposites of shame and pride. Maybe not spoken fluently but we could get by and have a nice conversation about all the good stuff like families, books, musics, hopes and disappointments. I liked being talked to. It means a lot to me to be able to use my own heart and mind and feel something abo ...more
zan
Dec 28, 2007 zan rated it liked it
I might be controversial by giving this book only 3 stars, but it didn't click with me the way I expected it to based on the universal "Wao" it got from everyone else. All those Mordor references felt forced, and I felt a bit attacked as a reader rather than invited. Anyone else want to join in my dissent?
Gus Sanchez
Apr 01, 2010 Gus Sanchez rated it it was amazing
I knew kids like Oscar Wao. In fact, I was Oscar Wao, an overweight, extremely nerdy kid whose lifelong ambition was to simply be cool. And so much of what Oscar Wao endures - and, more often not, through his own hand - is hilariously and uncomfortably familiar to me.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a genius work from Junot Diaz, who emerged a decade ago in a blaze of glory after the publication of his debut collection of short stories, Drown. That rare voice that speaks of the culture c
...more
David
Dec 20, 2007 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2007
I enjoyed this book a lot, and think it deserves the good reviews it's received. I just hadn't expected it to be quite as *sad* as it was. Somehow, it wasn't the more obviously depressing aspects (e.g. the persecution and torture that were routinely practiced under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic) that got to me so much as the smaller stuff. The continued failure of the various members of Oscar's family to connect, the accumulated hostility between generations, as well as the ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is almost like (Llosa's) The Feast of the Goat: The Sequel. The central character Oscar and his sister are descendants of victims of the cruel three-plus decades of the Trujillo dictatorship (their grandparents, directly; their mother, indirectly). They do not remember the past. In fact, they do not know the past. But the past apparently has not forgotten them. They carry its curse, "fuku," and when Oscar falls in love, he only gets a brief taste of happiness by paying for it with his life. ...more
Thomas
Dec 25, 2015 Thomas rated it liked it
Recommended to Thomas by: Sunshine
An impressive book, both in what it includes and what it has achieved. The Brief Life of Oscar Wao centers on Oscar De Leon, an overweight sci-fi nerd growing up in Paterson, New Jersey. Junot Diaz employs a frame structure in which multiple characters narrate the story, a good amount of which takes place in the Dominican Republic. We spend the most time with Yunior de Las Casas, Oscar's roommate, a playboy who informs us of the curse that has plagued Oscar and his family for decades.

I can see w
...more
Abby
Jun 28, 2008 Abby rated it it was ok
This book was kind of disappointing. It had a lot of pages. I'd have to go check to see how many for sure, but only about 83 of them were actually necessary for the story. The rest of it was just filler swear words and phrases in Spanish that I didn't understand. Oh yeah, also references to nerdy things that I've never heard of, like fantasy movies and famous sci fi books. (Because I of course, am the epitome of not-nerdy.)

The whole book swore and swore and swore like a swearing sailor, and then
...more
Michael
Jan 23, 2008 Michael rated it liked it
There was a lot about this novel that I liked, and a lot that I disliked. I know from other reviews that what -I- got out of the book was quite different than what other people got out of it.

The biggest feeling I had was anger that our world does this to people (Oscar, that is). It shames me. Call me a dreamer if you wish, but I think that if we treated our fellow man better, and didn't ridicule him or her for no good purpose, all of us would be better for it. Maybe more kids would escape the gr
...more
helen the bookowl
Dec 05, 2015 helen the bookowl rated it liked it
This was an okay book, but nothing more than that, to be honest. It is the story of Oscar Wao who grows up in the Dominican Republic and how his life turned out. It is a story told through different persons' perspectives who all had something to do with Wao. In other words, everyone's perspectives were a piece of a puzzle that gradually made the reader able to put the pieces together to a whole.
While I enjoyed the story, I also had some problems with it. A lot of it is written in Spanish, and w
...more
Debbie
Apr 25, 2008 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: highlyrecommend
I am not finished yet, but I am really loving this book. What a voice, what lyrical, amazing language. He is truly gifted.

OK, I read it.

I cannot help but be influenced by our country's current talk about illegal immigrants, which has led to public discourse about immigrants in general. It is a talk that, to many, risks cold analysis, and for some, resentment, anger. So, given this backdrop, I personally cannot help but see this book as primarily an immigrant saga with several themes related to
...more
Myfanwy
Nov 06, 2007 Myfanwy rated it it was amazing
Oh boy, is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao an interesting, challenging, illuminating book. At first, I wondered if I would be at a disadvantage as I do not get most of the allusions to comic books (though the Tolkien, etc, is not lost on me)--still knowing these things is not necessary to find what you need in this book. I also initially worried over the footnotes--would they be a chore? Would I end up skipping them? Nope and nope. From the beginning, I looked forward to them and what they ...more
Mara
Oct 10, 2014 Mara rated it really liked it
In an interview I read (but can't seem to find) with Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master's Son* , Johnson describes how the individual narratives of the people of North Korea were inseparable from that of their (then) Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il. So too were the stories of those living in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorial leadership of Rafael Trujillo subsumed and intertwined with that of El Jefe (AKA “the Failed Cattle Thief, and Fuckface”).

Author Junot Díaz describes th
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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud ...more
More about Junot Díaz...

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“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” 585 likes
“It's never the changes we want that change everything.” 541 likes
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