Reviews for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

by Junot Diaz

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Oscar de León, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, is obsessed with sci-fi/fantasy novels, falling in love, and the fukú, a curse that has plagued his family for generations. Elements of magical realism enhance this stellar story. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

D!az's remarkable debut novel tells the story of a lonely outsider with zest rather than pathos. Oscar grows up in a Dominican neighborhood in Paterson, NJ, as an overweight, homely lover of sf and fantasy. Reading such books and trying to emulate them in his own writing provide Oscar's only pleasure. What he really wants is love, but his romantic overtures are constantly rejected. The author balances Oscar's story with glances at the history of the Dominican Republic, focusing on the Rafael Trujillo dictatorship and its effect on Oscar's family. D!az masterfully shifts between Oscar and his sister, mother, and grandfather to give this intimate character study an epic scale, showing that an individual life is the product of family history. Jonathan Davis's sensitive reading captures the romantic quest of the hero and the tragedy of life under Trujillo, and Staci Snell ably reads the alternating chapters dealing with Oscar's sister and mother. Also included is Drown, a collection of stories by D!az. Highly recommended for all collections. [This book is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.-Ed.]-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family. After a noted debut volume of short stories (Drown, 1996), D"az pens a first novel that bursts alive in an ironic, confiding, exuberant voice. Its wider focus is an indictment of the terrible Trujillo regime and its aftermath, but the approach is oblique, traced backwards via the children (Oscar and Lola) of a larger-than-life but ruined Dominican matriarch, Beli. In earthy, streetwise, Spanish-interlaced prose, D"az links overweight, nerdy fantasist Oscar, his combative, majestic sister and their once Amazonian mother to the island of their ancestry. There, an aunt, La Inca, with strange, possibly supernatural powers, heals and saves Beli after her involvement with one of Trujillo's minor henchman, who was married to the dictator's sister. Beli, at age14, had naively hoped this affair would lead to marriage and family, but instead her pregnancy incurred a near-fatal beating, after which she fled to New Jersey to a life of drudgery, single parenting and illness. By placing sad, lovelorn, virginal Oscar at the book's heart, D"az softens the horrors visited on his antecedents, which began when Trujillo cast his predatory eye on wealthy Abelard Cabral's beautiful daughter. Was the heap of catastrophes that ensued fukú (accursed fate), D"az asks repeatedly, and can there be counterbalancing zafa (blessing)? The story comes full circle with Oscar's death in Santo Domingo's fateful cornfields, himself the victim of a post-Trujillo petty tyrant, but it's redeemed by the power of love. Despite a less sure-footed conclusion, D"az's reverse family saga, crossed with withering political satire, makes for a compelling, sex-fueled, 21st-century tragi-comedy with a magical twist. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
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Having caught everyone's attention with his short stories, D!az offers a debut novel starring ghetto geek Oscar, whose family labors under a Fuk# (or curse) that delivers prison, tragic accidents, and, worst of all, bad luck in love. With a national tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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What a bargain to have D!az's short story collection, Drown, included (on the last five CDs) with the talented, emerging Dominican-American writer's first novel. Davis reads both superbly. He captures not only the fat, virginal, impractical Oscar, but he also gives a sexy vigor to Yunior, who serves as narrator and Oscar's polar opposite. Davis also gives voice to Oscar's mother, Beli, whose fuk# curse infects the entire family, except for Oscar's sister, Lola, performed in a flat voice by Snell, whose performance overlooks Lola's energy and resolve. Both Snell and Davis move easily from English to Spanish/Spanglish and back again, as easily as the characters emigrate from the Dominican Republic to Paterson, N.J., only to be drawn back inexorably to their native island. Listeners unfamiliar with Spanish may have difficulty following some of the dialogue. However, it's better to lose a few sentences than to miss Davis's riveting performance, perfect pace and rich voice, which are perfectly suited to D!az's brilliant work. Simultaneous release with the Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, June 18). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Matthew Sharpe is the author of the novels Jamestown and The Sleeping Father. He teaches at Wesleyan University. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

"*Starred Review* Díaz's gutsy short story collection Drown (1996) made the young Dominican American a literary star. Readers who have had to wait a decade for his first novel are now spectacularly rewarded. Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, he has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are. Propelled by compassion, Díaz's novel is intrepid and radiant."--"Seaman, Donna" Copyright 2007 Booklist


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has another hit on his hands with this jaw-dropping performance of Diaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, originally published in 2007. With its lyrical mix of standard and slang English and Spanish and nonstop barrage of references to often obscure academic and pop culture topics, Diaz's phenomenal debut presents a distinct challenge to any narrator. Miranda's energy and melodious reading invigorates listeners and prevents them from feeling too overwhelmed by any unfamiliar allusions or phrases. While the novel centers on the struggles of three generations of the de Leon family under the brutal Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and their eventual immigration to the United States, the voice of the novel is Yunior, a bilingual Dominican American who roomed with Oscar de Leon at Rutgers University. Miranda is spot-on as the somewhat slippery, often raw Yunior-listeners are transported to his dorm room, hearing him spin these tragicomic tales over a beer or two. Karen Olivo chips in with a spirited performance of the chapter featuring Oscar's sister, Lola. Diaz's novel, sensational in print, is exponentially enriched by the performances of these Broadway stars. -VERDICT Essential for all libraries.- Beth -Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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