Jamie's Reviews > The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
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May 24, 09

bookshelves: literary
Read in May, 2009

I spent a long time thinking about reading this book but not doing it. Now that I have, I’m really ambivalent. While it’s a story I’ve never really read before – the Dominican experience definitely being something that I’m pretty disinterested in – it ultimately is totally a story that disappoints. The things I enjoy: the fact that the narrator is not a member of the immediate family being discussed. The way that each section tells the story of a different member of the family, and that it’s totally not linear so it takes a little while to really know what’s being talked about. The blur between truth and fiction – Junot Diaz himself being a Dominican who grew up in New Jersey, among other things that align with the characters in the novel.

The things I don’t enjoy: the ultimate aimlessness of the plot. The fact that it doesn’t really seem like something that needed to be written… it’s not the most original story, when all is said and done. And finally: the ending. What? THAT’S what I was waiting on that whole time? The beginning of the novel sets up Oscar’s death as something amazing, incredible, inspiring (or maybe that was just me reading into it) and in the end it’s so banal. That’s the most disappointing aspect of this book (spoiler alert): that a boy dies so he can get laid.

Maybe I have too high expectations these days, but I started this book with high hopes, got about halfway through and thought, “Okay, maybe it’ll get somewhere by the end,” and finished it with one word: Meh.

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Reading Progress

05/17/2009 page 1
0.3% "High hopes."
05/17/2009 page 69
20.6% "Surprisingly easy read, after the stuff I've been reading the last year. Not sure if that's what I want out of a Pulitzer winner."
05/18/2009 page 150
44.78% "anyone who has read this and knows who the narrator is, please tell me - unless it's a surprise."
05/22/2009 page 200
59.7% "and not that interested."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Toni Take everything you said about the book.
Then think the opposite.
That's how I felt about the book.
I loved it almost more than anyone should love a book.


Jamie I've heard that from several people. I think that my problem ultimately is that I've been reading SUCH important books lately, and it's actually becoming my downfall. I can't enjoy anything because I want it to be capital M Meaningful. That may sound pretentious, but I feel like I'm screwing myself with some of my choices lately because I'm not liking anything all that much. That said, what exactly did you love about this? I honestly want to know from someone who adored it.




Toni Jamie wrote: "I've heard that from several people. I think that my problem ultimately is that I've been reading SUCH important books lately, and it's actually becoming my downfall. I can't enjoy anything becau..."

I really liked the voice of the narrator and unlike a lot of people, I liked the footnotes as well. Learning while reading fiction is an enormous plus for me. Also I felt like I knew these people, and they and their surroundings (mainly in the US)felt really familiar. All of the slang and cultural references made me comfortable.
Recently I watched the movie In The Time of Butterflies (may read the book someday) and having read Brief Wondrous... helped me put a lot of that in context.
Reading all those classics can make your brain explode!


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