Nights In

The brief and wondrous life of oscar wao: wondrous indeed

The numerous writers from, Ireland, England and the Northern part of America are often the ones which we are exposed to most in this country. 

Neil Gaiman, J.K Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and a whole host of writers we’re forced to read in school. This book is refreshing and told with a fresh perspective, colourful characters, and an adventurous Caribbean style that makes it stand out.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007), written by Junot Díaz, tells the story of Oscar Dé Leon, a lovesick boy from the Dominican Republic who grows up to be a love sick man from the Dominican Republic. Oscar is overweight, an uncoordinated dancer, and does not drive the ladies wild much to the disappointment of his family members.

 He has a distinct lack of typical Dominican masculinity which is a running theme throughout.

 Oscar is often an apologetically passionate nerd, a lover of Tolkien, Dungeons and Dragons and all things fantastic, including the curse on his family which he is certain has played a hand in his fate. An aspiring writer, Oscar lives between the pages and panels of comic books and Elvin lore, he lives with his ailing mother and his rebellious sister in New Jersey; something that’s partially based on the author’s own childhood. 

Told during the modern day with flashbacks to the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic, blending fictional characters with real life events. 

The story is spliced into multiple points of view: Oscar, Lola, their mother, and their grandfather. The narrative is one of heartbreak and a family always teetering on the edge of ruin.

The novel takes many dark turns and the humour is more often than not mocking in tone.

 Misery and the brief moments of happiness are visceral as the characters appear real in their relatability.  

The book is saturated with pop culture references and factoids of Dominican history, with footnotes for your very convenience. 

 It is told in a scathing style that mocks the main character of Oscar on the regular as the narrator, a Dominican male who does not lack the typical machismo, Yunior de Las Casas a former college roommate of Oscar’s and an alter ego of Junot Díaz.

The narrator pulls no punches in his assessment of the state of this dysfunctional family unit. 

The many modes of narration can be a little difficult to keep up with at times but the story is definitely one worth hearing.  

Junot Díaz is a fantastic writer who combines comic book references, Latin American mysticism and the use of Spanish idioms and phrasing that makes this book such a unique read. 

The combination of real life experience and pure imaginings of actual events paint a vibrant world. 

If you are looking for a fresh style and perspective, and you want a change of pace from the usual crop of writers that fill our bookshelves this book is worth a read.