Friday, Jan 30, 2009
Author: Junot Diaz
Pages: 340 Paperback
Publisher: RiverHead Books / Penguin
Publisher’s Website: http://www.penguin.com
Author’s Website: http://www.junotdiaz.com
Purchase: $7.95 at Amazon.Com
This book review, I am certain, is doomed to disappoint. But, January’s lucky streak of awesome books has now been cursed by the Fuku’ of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
This book is the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Winner. Do you think it’s just me? Do I expect too much out of award winning books?
Let’s start with the story lines. This book is a compilation of the stories of the lives several family members originating in the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo). The reader, eventually, gets to understand the lives of a Doctor Cabral, his wife, their children, and grandchildren. In addition to them, many other characters are introduced and experienced by the readers. The lives of these characters are entwined with the life Cabral Family. The one thing that I can say about this book is that there is no lack of characters in this story. In fact, there are so many supporting characters and different viewpoints, that I was constantly flipping back in the book to understand who it was that I was reading about.
Let’s move onto Oscar Wao as he did get the “title” role. Oscar is the grandson of Doctor Cabral, Son of Beli (a mother suffering with the ways of her only unruly daughter in addition to breast cancer), Brother to Lola (that unruly daughter), Nephew to La Inca (old school lady who raised Beli after her parents’ deaths), and Friend to Yunior (a very horny man in love with Lola). Confused? That’s okay… I was too. Oscar has been dealt the unfortunate hand of a weight problem topped with a lovely case of chronic acne. Pobre! Other than a brief time in his childhood, this poor dude never made it with the ladies. And, when I say “made it,” that includes even a decent make-out session. I guess 300+ lbs. will do that to you. He loses himself in science fiction, fantasy, writing, and typical nerd activities (D&D, etc.). However, Oscar is a true romantic. When he falls in love, it’s hard and he does not bounce back well when the rejection hits. His life is one cut out of a Greek Tragedy. After the reader gets to meet Oscar, he is led to read about Lola, the hot-headed, strong-willed sister.
Lola and her mother, Beli, do not get along at all! The fighting that these two experience is incomprehensible to me. But, they do come from a different culture then I did… and, then… there is the Fuku’. From Lola and her teenage hardships, love dramas, and strife, we move onto the very sad life of her mom, Beli. I really did enjoy reading the story of Beli’s past. It was gripping, exotic and tragic. Moving on… we follow Oscar and Lola through their experience into and during the college years. While the reader is taken there, there are side travels into the lives of La Inca, Abelard, and Yunior. Now, it would take me nearly a book to get into who they are and why they are important. Did I mention this book was complex?
So… this book accompanies these characters on their travels back and forth between Santo Domingo and The United States of America. I cannot say that this is a book with much positive happening to these characters, but not all books are written to be such. I mean… look at the previous year’s Pulitzer Prize winner… The Road. Nothing positive happens there, either. OK… so… a heavy book, an intricate book, and A WELL WRITTEN BOOK… how the heck do I review you? Let me give you the skinny about what makes this book hard for me to review:
This book is heavily footnoted with historical facts and explanations of people-tales-beliefs for the reader to understand the metaphors in the book. The footnotes are, in most cases, extremely lengthy. And, since the history of this region and history in general are not to strong points of mine, this was highly distracting and frustrating for me. However, these footnotes are very important to the understanding of the story and, at times, fascinating to read. But, it did create a lot of back and forth for me in reading.
I do read a good amount of Spanish, however I struggled with the vocabulary in this book. At one point I thought that I’d highlight and look-up. There were so many words that I plainly gave up on that notion. Good thing is, it didn’t take away that much comprehension of the story… I hope!
The book is written almost in the fashion of short stories that are stringed together. However, rather than a straight line (like a fishing line), it’s like crocheted together. The story of this family is not linear. Now, I can’t decide on whether or not I would have preferred it to be linear or not.
I have been avoiding writing my review and usually I run, and do not walk, to the keyboard after I finish a book. I had NO IDEA how to review this book.
In reading the “Classics” and being a well-read and educated person, I can see the benefit in reading the Pulitzer Prize winners. It will only enhance your ability to engage in better conversations and add to the diversity of your mind. I am a better person for having read it. But, I’m still scratching my head. The good news is, I’m in a book club now. This is our cirremt read and we get to chat about it in just over a week. I have a feeling that I may learn a lot from these ladies. Maybe my perspective will be enhanced.
ON SHER’S “OUT OF TEN SCALE:”
Writing this review is comparable to visiting the dentist…. I’m just glad that it’s done. For the genre Fiction-Drama I give this book an 8 out of 10. I can’t tell you how conflicted I am about that rating. I feel as though it deserves better from me. I reserve the right to increase the rating after my book club meeting! This book would make a good movie, if set in a linear fashion. If you are one who is offended by foul language or crude sexual descriptions, you will definitely not want to read this book… it’s loaded with it. I was, however, not bothered by the majority of it.
Please keep an eye out for Lisa’s (Books on the Brain) review. She’s finished the book and should be reviewing soon.
P.S. Look up Fuku’ (I may start using that word).
P.S.S. I have no idea why the footer at the end of this post is all jacked up and to the right… sorry for the imperfection. See… FUKU!?!