Great American Read List discussion

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
35 views
Stand-Alone Novels > August 2018—THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Díaz

Comments Showing 1-38 of 38 (38 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 08, 2018 06:46AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
The winner for our August novel is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

To all who voted—thank you!
To everyone—I hope you'll participate and read this selection for our monthly book club.
For those who do—share your thoughts as you read, please!

Spoilers are allowed; add a considerate warning if your comment includes any so members have the option to skip.

I will begin reading this August 1st. I look forward to following this discussion!


Tasha I'll be reading this one. Looking forward to see what I think as this one seems to have mixed reactions. :)


message 3: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 14, 2018 07:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Happy to hear that, Tasha!

I've never read anything by Junot Díaz, but this novel is on another list which I'm working my way through so I would have read it eventually. The Great American Read has me reading it sooner, which is good. I'm looking forward to discovering for myself why this is a best-loved book of Americans.

To everyone—feel free to begin reading it early, if you'd like, and start the discussion at your leisure.

Some info on this novel and author:
Junot Díaz was born December 31, 1968 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. His family immigrated to the US when he was six years old, to New Jersey.
In 2008, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel.
He now lives in Harlem, New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts, splitting his time for home and work, and is 49 years old.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was first published in 2007.
genre: magical realism
GoodReads rating: 3.9—68% rated it 4 or 5 stars


message 4: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years, but never got around to it. I picked up a copy at the library yesterday and started reading it. Mixed feelings, so far. (I'll avoid going into details until I'm further along and have sorted things out in my head a little more.)


message 5: by Cindy (new)

Cindy  | 35 comments I am going to have a hard time finding a copy. The local library does not have a copy. I found it on Overdrive but it is on hold, will see how many holds are on it. Too expensive on Amazon. We have no bookstores in my hometown. The nearest bookstore takes a two hour road trip.


message 6: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 15, 2018 06:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm delighted that you're reading this group selection, Andrew (I noticed that you started it last night)!
Take all the time you need to share your thoughts, but I'll admit that I'm curious as to what about it has given you mixed feelings and why.

I'm sorry to hear that, Cindy.
I hope Overdrive comes through for you. Keep us posted, please!


message 7: by Cindy (new)

Cindy  | 35 comments I will probably skip this one. I did not like the sample preview. My plan for August is to finish Gone with the Wind. I have 400 pages left.


message 8: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Cindy wrote: "I will probably skip this one. I did not like the sample preview. My plan for August is to finish Gone with the Wind. I have 400 pages left."

No problem!
I hope you enjoy Gone with the Wind as much as I did. It's one of my favorites on The Great American Read list (of those I've read so far).


message 9: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
I finished this book today and posted a review here. I have a few other thoughts on the book that I might post later on, but I don't have time to get them all straight in my head right now. Anyway, I enjoyed it, and I hope anyone else here who chooses to read it enjoys it too.


message 10: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 01, 2018 09:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Fantastic review Andrew, and thank you for sharing it!
As our reading "tastes" are 83% similar I'm hopeful that I'll like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as much as you did.

Members' ratings for this list book are all over the place:

★—1 member
★★—1 member
★★★—2 members
★★★★—3 members
★★★★★—1 member

2 members are currently reading it and I'll begin the day after tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it more now given your enthusiasm!


Tasha I think I'm one of those 'currently reading' members but I have to admit I haven't started yet, I've been so busy and catching up on other reads. That said, I am going to be starting it within the next week. I enjoyed your review, Andrew. I love when a book you are reading connects with you to place, it's such cool feeling! I'm really looking forward to it.


message 12: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Jul 31, 2018 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Take your time, please! There's no rush.

A new member rated it 4 stars. I've edited message 11 so it's up to date. Two members are currently reading it.

I purchased the ebook this morning for $14.99. It's 296 pages. I'm excited to begin reading it tomorrow!


message 13: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
By the way, for anyone who is finding it hard to deal with all the oddball references and/or Spanish, here's a site with some annotations for the book: http://www.annotated-oscar-wao.com/.

I found it helpful.


Tasha Thanks, Andrew!


message 15: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 01, 2018 09:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Usually, I'll read a list book for a couple days before sharing my thoughts, but I want to dive right in.
Firstly, THANK YOU Andrew for linking those annotations. I've it bookmarked and I referred to it today. It's quite helpful!

First impressions: The narrator in the introduction reminded me a great deal of the way in which the boys talked in Stephen King's novella The Body (adapted into the movie Stand by Me). He's unapologetically blunt and vulgar. As a result, completely believable.

To me, this reads like a ghost story (so far) which is intriguing, especially given the fact that I know little to nothing about Dominican culture, but am happy to learn! I'm not a superstitious person, but I still find this amusing and want to discover how the fukú curse affects the main character and those around him.

This will be a slower read for me given I don't know Spanish or the Dominican references, but I don't mind a challenging book. Sometimes the effort is totally worth it!


Tasha I love your thoughts on this, Lavan. :)


message 17: by Toni (new) - rated it 1 star

Toni Gary I struggled through it (because I’m very stubborn) with the help of my Enotes app and google. It was just not for me.


message 18: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 12, 2018 08:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Thank you, Tasha!

Toni—I totally respect that, and I admire you for finishing a book that you weren't enjoying for the sake of completion. I'm the same way; I mentioned that in your bookshelf topic. Sometimes my opinion will change during the course of a story, but sadly that wasn't the case for you with this selection.

I'm on p. 64—at 22%. The "ghost story" impression disappeared after the introduction.
I must say, I have some criticism about this book and as I'm only about a quarter into the story that's disappointing. The narrator of chapter 1 is annoyingly patronizing. I've no idea who he is (please don't tell me, as I'm sure it will be revealed later on), but he, as well as a great deal of other males in the book, are obnoxiously derogatory in regard to females.
I don't know if Díaz is painting a realistic picture of how Dominican society actually is or if this story is meant to be unusual, but I hope it's the latter. Being promiscuous is not only acceptable, but encouraged by adults to their youth. The level of irresponsibility is shocking.
Oscar's mother's behavior is beyond appalling (not to mention his uncle Tío Rudolfo's). Abusive parents are a sore spot for me, so it goes without saying that I cannot stand Oscar's mother. I glare down at the words every time she hurts her children, but I like when a book makes me feel so this is actually a positive in respect to the writing. Obviously, I'm hoping for character development.
I like that the POV shifts in chapter 2 to Oscar's sister. Her perspective adds a great deal to the overall story and helps to develop the reader's understanding of Oscar's family and daily life.
Thankfully, Oscar has his sister Lola and grandmother La Inca (I adore her) in his life. I don't know how he'd cope if not for them.
Also, I quite like Oscar's vocabulary. I chuckled at "orchidaceous."


message 19: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 14, 2018 06:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm on p. 115—at 39%. I would have guessed that this novel was political fiction or historical fiction rather than magical realism, as the latter's presence seems minor in comparison. I'm certainly learning a lot about Dominican history and politics (and horrified by it)!

From Part 1, Chapter 3: The Three Heartbreaks of Belicia Cabral—Truth and Consequences 1—the story picks up tremendous speed, and is still engrossing where I've left off. There's a shocking reveal that had me muttering, 'Oh my God. ... Oh my God.'

I now understand why Oscar's mother is the way she is (although that's still not an excuse to mistreat your children) and I do feel great pity for her and also admiration for her sheer strength. It's astonishing what she's experienced and endured!


Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Finally got it, starting this tonight..yay!


message 21: by Andrew, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andrew (andyhuey) | 332 comments Mod
Lavan, I'm enjoying your comments here. Yeah, his male characters are definitely not role models. Not quite realistic either. I think he's taking some basic characteristics and exaggerating them for effect.


message 22: by Tasha (last edited Aug 15, 2018 06:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tasha I haven't started yet as I have had a few other book commitments this month but I still have it out from the library and plan on reading next after my current 'commitment'. :) Based on my skimming (afraid of spoilers) I'm really curious how I'm going to respond to this one.


message 23: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I can't wait to hear what you think, Trina! Please share your thoughts when you're ready.

Andrew—If that's true, then it's more palatable. It's a shame though, because I can see readers, especially women, being put off by how the males speak. If the book is abandoned before the story is read in its entirety, then one would miss out on this unique experience. It's unlike any book I've ever read, and it has a lot to offer a tolerant, determined reader.

Tasha—I'm looking forward to your thoughts, as always!

I'm on p. 157—at 53%. At first, I found this selection to be rather intimidating but I've become accustom to Díaz's style. I've had roller coaster feelings about this book; first good, then bad, then good again. Now that I've gotten as far as I have, I can't deny how well-written and impactful it is.

Sure, I find some aspects annoying, such as how Yunior can't seem to go a single sentence without cursing, usually several times. Don't get me wrong, I don't turn up my nose at those who use profanity, but I do think it's excessive in this instance and unnecessarily so.

Still, Díaz has woven a story that's sucked me right in. I need to know how it goes. I can't say that I need to know how it ends, because at this point it's fairly obvious, but I need to know why and the events leading up. I care about Oscar. I care about Lola. I want to know more.


message 24: by Tasha (last edited Aug 20, 2018 05:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tasha I'm starting today and I'm really curious what I'm going to think about this one based on the comments from this group so far.


Tasha I'm planning on reading it more slowly as I think it's that kind of book but also because I'm reading a couple other books as well.


Tasha I'm only in about 45 pages but so far I'm pretty interested. I find that it's best for my momentum if I just skip over all the spanish words and just sort of glean whatever meaning I can from the context. It's working so far so I'm going to keep up with it. I'm not loving the writing style but I'm finding myself reaching for the book so that is always a pretty good sign. :)


Tasha I'm about 30% in and things have changed for me. I'm really starting to love this one. My feelings about the writing style have changed, I'm enjoying it more now. I guess I just needed to get used to it. I'm still skipping over the foreign words but it doesn't seem to be detracting from the story, at least I don't think so.

I found myself connecting with Oscar's sister in Ch 2: Wildwood 1982-1985. I was a teen during those years and into the same punk style and music that was referenced in the story. I've been to the nightclub mentioned in the book, The Limelight, during those same years and I also went to Wildwood once or twice then as well. It was actually so fun reading that part and loving the connection I felt through those things. Really cool.

I was starting to enjoy the story before all that but that just really won me over even more. I'm reading about Oscar's mom now and it's really quite interesting.


message 28: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 22, 2018 10:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm glad, Tasha!
Sounds like you and Andrew have that in common. You both felt a connection with the story, because of a familiarity with locations, references, and such. It's nice when that happens.

You're at the part where the story really took off for me. The momentum hasn't slowed since, even though I'm on Part III, p. 225—at 76%.

I will say this—this book is not for the delicate. Díaz doesn't hold anything back. It's ruthless. Having said that, it's also quite powerful and unforgettable.


Tasha I'm happy to hear you are still enjoying it as you near the end, that's awesome. This is another one that I heard of but really didn't have much intention of pick up (at least in the near future) so I'm glad it was a group read. :)


Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Listening to this one via audiobook.

So glad we're reading this one! Really liking it so far (50% in).


Tasha I finished this one a few days ago and definitely enjoyed the read. It was tough towards the end: (view spoiler)

I gave it 4 stars but a really strong 4, maybe even 4.5 to be fair. I'm not sure why, sitting here today, I didn't give it 5 because I really thought it was well done but regardless, it was a unique style and it ended up working really well for me.


message 32: by Lavan, moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
I'm happy to hear that, Trina!
I hope it continues in the same fashion for you.

Tasha—I'm glad you enjoyed this selection as much as I did!

I finished last Thursday. I always try to read a book with an open mind, but given the mixed reviews in our group I wasn't sure how I was going to feel. Midway, I was considering a 3 star rating, but then the story suddenly picked up and never stopped. From that point, every time I picked up where I'd left off I was swept away, caught up in the quick turnover of events. By the end, I felt it deserved 4 stars.
I won't forget this story anytime soon.


message 33: by Tasha (last edited Aug 30, 2018 04:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tasha I was worried about the mixed reviews as well but I'm so glad I read it. I think mixed reviews sometimes also means you are either going to love the book or hate it (not really any in between) since people seem to fall strongly on either end (when you see such mixed reviews). It's one I'm not likely to forget either, at least for a while. ;)


message 34: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Aug 30, 2018 01:42PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
It may also be difficult for readers to connect and identify with a book when it has specifics that they cannot relate to or aren't interested in learning about, such as with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao—Dominican politics, history, and culture, Spanish, and geeky references galore, but as with all good stories there are universal themes—not feeling as though you fit in/loneliness/depression, familial relationships, and finding love.


Tasha Yes, that is definitely true.


Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Lavan wrote: "It may also be difficult for readers to connect and identify with a book when it has specifics that they cannot relate to or aren't interested in learning about, such as with The Brief Wondrous Lif..."

Agreed, those are great points Lavan. I just finished it 15 minutes ago (late of course); it was very interesting and I enjoyed it. Will write my review tomorrow.


Trina  (trinanycolbrown) Andrew wrote: "By the way, for anyone who is finding it hard to deal with all the oddball references and/or Spanish, here's a site with some annotations for the book: http://www.annotated-oscar-wao.com/.

I found..."


Thanks Andrew; this was very helpful.


message 38: by Lavan, moderator (last edited Sep 04, 2018 12:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lavan Zerach | 498 comments Mod
Thank you, Trina!
No worries. I'm happy to revisit group selections whenever members get a chance to finish them.

I'm glad you enjoyed this list book, and I'll keep an eye out for your review. I'm looking forward to reading it!


back to top