The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Review


The January read for the Budapest book club was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Daiz. It’s won a crap load of awards including a Pulitzer Prize. Two things happened when I saw that this was a Pulitzer Prize book. First I checked the publication date. (2007 by the way) The second was I wondered if it was going to be over my head. In my mind, if you have won a Pulitzer Prize you have a complexity that I’m not sure I can comprehend and my mind shuts down a little. Or I think it’s really boring and my mind still shuts down. But obviously they’re amazing to be Pulitzer or else every book would be a Pulitzer winner.

The language in the book felt authentic. The way Spanish was mixed into it felt real. It helps that the author was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in the States very similar to those in the book. That makes the book feel a lot more authentic. My mind did wonder some in this book. It’s not that it’s a bad book, it’s a very good book. I had the problem with the dialogue. I know it’s kind of a history so the dialogue isn’t what it is in other fictional books.

When I started this book I thought it was going to be completely about and focused on Oscar. The title does imply that. But it wasn’t. It was in a way but it was about his family and ultimate death. After the first switch, from him to his sister, I was a little confused because I was tired and didn’t quite understand why it was switching. I did totally think that Oscar was going to be Asian of the title. Wao seems like it would be an Asian name to me. But Wao isn’t his last name. I didn’t get until later in the book that it was Yunior that was narrating. I thought it was just a regular third person omniscient. I did like Yunior though he didn’t know how to keep it in his pants. I really did like someone who wasn’t a part of Oscar’s immediate family narrating. It gave a certain impartiality that was really nice.

And how about those footnotes? Some of them would have been better as end notes. But if I had to guess, having them all as footnotes was a stylistic choice. It does help with not having to flip back all the time. But some of them were so long. I did like how they were written though. They were very personable. They were straightforward but comfortable. If that makes any sense at all.

We could talk a lot about the literary devices in this book. The reoccurrence of the mongoose, power of appearances, the magical realism, etc. All those things, plus more are very present in the book. What has struck me in this book, and others, is the fact that virginity is looked down upon in our culture. Not only do men give crap to other males when they don’t “close the deal”. But it’s also amongst woman. Maybe it’s my own “inexperience” or my ideals but I think that virginity before marriage should be honored. But if I weren’t the kind of woman that would honor that, I wouldn’t sleep with Oscar. From how they describe him, a big man way too into comic books, I don’t know if I would be physically attracted to him. Not my type. But obviously from having a type, I’ve gotten REALLY lucky.

I understand why this book has gotten so many awards. It’s a very interesting book with a narrator you kind of roll your eyes at because of his actions (or at least I did. Get over yourself. Either stay faithful to Lola or get over it. And seriously, she can’t be that beautiful if you can’t keep it in your pants), a “protagonist” who dies, and a family that is supposedly cursed. There’s lots of things going on. I don’t necessarily go for this type of book. Not because of the Pulitzer but because it drags for me. Like I said, there’s a lot going on but it wasn’t something that kept me interested. I know, I’m a little weird and people love and rave about this book. I just couldn’t stay there with it all the way through. It depended on who was being talked about. I was really into Lola and Yunior and Oscar. Everyone else I didn’t really care. Again not because it wasn’t interesting but because it wasn’t directly a part of Oscar’s life or time period. It led up to him and that time. I know. I make no sense. Overall, I’d give this a 3.5 stars out of 5.



About frustratedreader

I'm just an average 20 something female that loses myself in a good book. Life has gotten hectic trying to balance small town living, working towards teaching overseas, finding that special someone and figuring out how life is supposed to work post-college. Thank God for books and knitting!

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