Ron Arden's Reviews > The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
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's review
Jul 26, 2011

I had high expectations for this book given all that I have read and heard about it, but unfortunately I was disappointed. The story focuses on the de León family from the Dominican Republic that has a curse or fukú on it. Oscar, the main character, grows up in Paterson, NJ as an overweight, introverted nerd. When he was younger he thought he would be a great Dominican lover and writer, but unfortunately nature took over and he grows to 300 pounds and loses all self-confidence. His head is in Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings. Enter Lola, his older sister, and the story begins to take on a little more life. Lola is a great beauty who struggles with her mother, men and life in general. The story moves back to Oscar’s mother's life in the Dominican Republic and all the love and tragedy that brought her to her present day bitterness (most of which is justified). We find out the history of the curse as the family dealt with the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo. Oscar’s mother had a difficult life, but managed to pull herself together to raise 2 children as she eventually fled the Dominican Republic for the US. The novel is supposed to show a family's fall from grace and its subsequent demise that began under Trujillo. They believe they are cursed, but fight to hold their dignity and make lives for themselves in the US, while still holding dear their ancestry in the Dominican Republic. There are some touching moments in the story as we understand this family and how they fight to survive.

While I liked parts of this book, for the most part I was disappointed. I had a lot of difficulty with the constant mix of Spanish and Spanglish, which detracted from the story more than enhanced it. I found that I didn’t really care about the characters or what drove them. I expected the story to come together as I read, but it didn’t improve. Many readers thought this book was one of the greatest they ever read, but I obviously missed something, since I think it was a stinker.

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