The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This book is excellent, the author a well-deserved recipient of the Pullitzer Prize. On one hand, it is the story of Oscar, an overweight, gaming, fantasy book-writing nerd to the nth degree, who is obsessed with his goal of losing his virginity. Oscar is also Dominican, which gives his whole nerdiness a more complicated cultural context. On the other hand, it is the story of the Dominican Republic and its complicated, bloody history. As the setting of the story travels back and forth from New Jersey to the DR, the reader develops an understanding of the culture and the people surrounding poor Oscar.
Most poignant is the character development in this book. Oscar and his family members become intimately understood by the reader and their often tragic experiences shape who they are and how they behave. Lola, Oscar’s sister, was a favorite character of mine because she was cool and yet always and unapologetically stood by her nerdy brother. She even assigned her boyfriend, one voice in the telling of this story, to protect him when she could not. Her fierce loyalty was a shining light in this sometimes brutal and raw tale.
The writing is colorful and vivid. The voice changes from section to section but each voice becomes one you hear whispered in your ear, it is so authentic. And I would encourage you to read the footnotes (there are probably too many of these). In the footnotes, you will find important historical explanations that give meaning to what is happening in the story. I admit I did not read every word in every one, but they are often amusing.
The only complaint I have is that I did not understand the Spanish that is written into the flow of the book and not translated. Unfortunately since I took French instead of Spanish in high school, I was screwed on that front. I am sure I missed out because of this.