Junot Diaz recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2008) as well as the National Book Crictics Circle Award of 2007 for The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Little wonder since his novel is easily one of the best and most remarkable of the year.
The story revolves around Oscar, whose unfortunate obesity gets in the way of his search for love and career. It is also the story of his family particularly their life in the Dominican Republic and their subsequent flight to New York. Woven into this family story is the greater saga of the country and their travails under the dictator Rafael Trujillo. But this is no normal family saga because of the involvement of fuku. Fuku for all of us unitiated is a curse, one that afflicts the whole island –especially personified by the dicatator Trujillo and unfortunately for Oscar, his family is particularly cursed. You might say that this book is chock full of magical realism but it is vastly different from the fiction of other Latin American authors such as Allende or even Cortazar. And this is due in large part to Junot’s writing. It is by turns engaging, imaginative and powerful.
His language is full of humor; it is contemporary, pungent and street wise with nonetheless its own kind of poetry and panache. He manages to capture with exactly the right nuance the voice of each memorable character. Another element to love about this book is the way it describes Oscar’s passion for all things science fiction, fantasy and even manga. Yes, he’s a dork but a truly well read one. So there are references to the grand high master Tolkien, Andre Norton and of course Ursula Le Guin to name a few. Rarely has a book managed to be such a great source (a bibliography even) of great science and fantasy fiction. If you’re not a fan of such genre, you will appreciate the flashes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and even Herman Melville.
This wonderful book is guaranteed to keep you glued til the last page and even after that is turned, you will still be thinking of Oscar Wao's brief and wondrous life.