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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  216,933 ratings  ·  18,806 reviews
Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican-American family in New Jersey, he's disastrously overweight, keeps falling hopelessly in love and dreams of becoming the next Tolkien. Meanwhile his punk sister Lola wants to run away, and his resolute mother Beli can't seem to let either of them go.

Moving across generations and continents, from
...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published February 5th 2009 by Faber and Faber (first published January 1st 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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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  216,933 ratings  ·  18,806 reviews


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Cameron
Jun 17, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Michael Finocchiaro
Exhilarating. Brutal yet beautiful. Wao. I really enjoyed both the style and the story of this whirlwind of a novel by Junot Díaz. I can see why he got a Pulitzer and wonder if his other books are as fun to read. I think that Seven Killings was even more masterful, but Oscar delivers nearly as much gore and Caribbean corruption and historical facts as well. I especially enjoyed the footnotes. Writing any more about this book would certainly break my no spoilers rules so suffice it to say that ...more
Malbadeen
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Andy
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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The Crimson Fucker
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
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Dan
Jul 07, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Adina
A to Z around the world personal challenge - D is Dominican Republic

After the partial failure with another Pulitzer winner and the controversy surrounding this book /author I was a bit weary at first. I shouldn’t have been because it was an excellent novel which deserves its praise.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not about Oscar’s life and it definitely wasn’t wondrous. It is a saga of Dominicana family starting in the Republic during the horrendous period of Trujillo’s reign, one of
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James
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-fiction
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz is pure genius storytelling at its core. This was a Book Club choice that had me a little nervous but in the end had me tightly strapped in for the ride.

As the title suggests, there is brevity to Oscar Wao's life. Going into the read knowing this fact makes it even harder to accept as you have little hope that he will survive all that is thrown at him in his early years. You root for him the entire length of the book but know deep in your heart
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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
...more
David Abrams
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jason
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Darth J
May 13, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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Nishat
Junot Diaz’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao is an achingly beautiful, irresistibly harrowing depiction of Dominican Republic.

The twentieth century’s one of the most disreputable dictators, Rafael Trujillo exercised absolute power over Dominican Republic like a feudal lord from February, 1930 until his assassination in May, 1961. The longevity of his barbarous reign led to the slaughter of 50,000 Dominicans.

The author, Junot Díaz persuasively creates a
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Fabian
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because in my brain there is a sharp-edge precise hierarchy of the MODERN CLASSICS (read in the most recent years*), and because this book is newly minted therein:

1ST...........MIDDLESEX
2ND...........THE CORRECTIONS
3RD...........WORLD'S END
4TH (TIE).....ON BEAUTY/THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE...

I mean, surely this is a book to join the others. It's about pretty much the same thing as those others: it deals with the Family Odyssey. Theme of the decade..? Half century? I subscribe to the belief that
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Annalisa
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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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Dolors
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of footnotes and silenced history
Shelves: dost, 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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Julie
Junot Diaz has created a masterpiece here, an incredible tribute to Dominican culture and history, and let's face it. . . what in the hell did you know about Dominican anything before you read this book? Nada. Less than nada.

Chances are, unless you're Dominican, a Caribbean history buff or a fan of Julia Alvarez's, you know mierda about Trujillo or his reign of terror or how badly Dominican women have been treated.

And, if you haven't read this book. . . you don't know Oscar Wao, and that's a
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Vit Babenco
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a great coming-of-age tale about a boy who wished to grow up but just couldn’t… He just managed to grow older. And somehow I place this unusual novel between To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and of course it has some sinister touch of The Comedians by Graham Greene to boot.
“In September he headed to Rutgers New Brunswick, his mother gave him a hundred dollars and his first kiss in five years, his tío a box of
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Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am late to the party with Junot Diaz's work, but wow, what a book! This is realistic adult fiction, with interlocking stories tracing several generations of a Dominican family. I say 'realistic,' though it owes a debt of gratitude to the magic realism of Garcia Marquez and Borges. I knew very little about the Dominican Republic before reading this novel. Now I can't imagine how I got along without the wonderful voices and characters Diaz evokes. He tosses out literary, pop culture, geek, and ...more
R.K. Gold
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't expecting this book to be so sad. I'll be honest, when I first started reading the book I knew more about the author than the synopsis. I read one of his short stories in undergrad and always planned on reading this book but never got around to it. Always had a different excuse to not pick it up.

Well, I finally read it, and it was--it was something. The different perspectives, the family, the entire history and origin story of their curse and the island itself, no matter how far they
...more
Whitney Atkinson
I loved listening to this because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrated it and, subsequently, I was attuned to every word. But although I loved listening to this, both because of Lin's voice and the content, I would love to revisit this in a few years and actually read it to see what else I can pull from it. It's very different than anything I would typically read, and it delves so far into backstories and family lineage that I would love to try flying through it in order to pick up more connections.

This
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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
Kim
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
...more
Tatiana
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, foreign-lands
Not sure what was so wondrous about Oscar's life.
Eliza Rapsodia
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: TODO EL MUNDO
Recommended to Eliza by: Brown Girl Reading
Shelves: literary-fiction
Mini review in english

NOTE: READ THIS NOVEL IN ENGLISH AKA THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE DO IT OR YOU WILL LOOSE A LOT OF IDIOMATIC JOKES and ALL the good stuff.

Said this, I can definitely say that I am to be declared as Junot Diaz fan. Because I heard about this novel before it was assigned as class reading at uni. It never ceased to amaze me by the different narrative voices, the words used of dominican spanish that the writing style includes and all the footnotes that the book have. They are in
...more
Kelly
This is someone's masterpiece, is what I kept thinking. Someone's lifechanger, someone's book they hug to their chest when they finish and re-read every couple of years for the rest of their life. And I would nominate it for classic canon worthy for that reason, and I should be so lucky to ever get the gift to discuss it with a class.

Diaz tells the story of the de Leon family and their trials and tribulations throughout at least three generations under the horrors of the Trujillo dictatorship in
...more
Patrick
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Vanessa
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
It took me awhile to get into the rhythm and flow of the writing but once I did I was all in. A combination of English and Spanish gave this book such a distinct personality. You knew right away that this was no ordinary story. Oscar is a character that will be ingrained in my heart, deeply. I learned a lot about the history and politics of the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo era, I knew next to nothing about the atrocities this country faced and what a history it is. The dictatorship of ...more
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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
“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” 754 likes
“It's never the changes we want that change everything.” 650 likes
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