So mostly I started wanting to do this review thing because of how much I was liking this book. Now that I have finished reading it and am sitting her...moreSo mostly I started wanting to do this review thing because of how much I was liking this book. Now that I have finished reading it and am sitting here in front of a computer, fingers hovering over the keyboard, I am finding I don't really know what to say. I got this book for Christmas from my Mom, and started reading it shortly after New Years.
This book was so many things at once. It is, on the surface, the story of Oscar, the overweight "ghetto nerd," who spends his time watching Dr. Who, reading and rereading Tolkien, writing page after page of fantasy fiction that never takes him anywhere, and falling in love with any beautiful, unattainable girl he meets along the way. The book follows him through his life from his childhood to his death, narrated by Yunior, his only real friend. It is much more than that, though, because it is also the story of his mother's childhood and youth (or loss of, more like) in the Dominican Republic and his sister's life in the states and in the DR. All three of their stories weave seamlessly (too much cloth metaphor? sorry) in and out of each other, and all of it within the backdrop of Trujillo era Dominican Republic. I didn't know much about that part of history before reading this book, but the pages are covered in footnotes (also written in Yunior's regular street-kid-with-a-vocabulary style) detailing the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, and the overwhelmingly totality of his effect on the country at that time (and after, through the "fuku" curse that supposedly followed those who opposed him).
Junot Díaz mixes rich, tragic history and the lonesome ache of being too dorky to get laid with such deftness that I am having a hard time picking a passage to type in here. Nothing can stand out when everything is written so vibrantly. here is a link to a summary, actually, so only read the first few pages of it, if you don't want to be spoiled. The thing that impresses me the most about this book is that, at first, it seems that Oscar's life is far from what you'd think of as wondrous. From his obesity and his devastating lack of social grace or way with women to his general apathy when it came to doing anything about it, his life was not much of a wonder. In contrast, the chapters following the lives of his mother, grandfather and sister are full of guts and action and general stuff stories are made of. In the end, though, it is the realization that his story is inexorably tangled in the unending cycles of fuku and zafa (curse and countercurse) of the previous generations that makes him wondrous. What are we but the shadows of our forefathers?
I really don't have anything negative to say about this book. You should probably read it. It might help to be semi-competent in Spanish or dorkenise, in order to catch some references, but I doubt the effect will be much diminished if you are not. He really catches the astounding importance and still the smallness of existing.
Pages:335, but full of things you can't even begin to skim. Jan 1-Jan 12. (less)