Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I enjoyed this story of Oscar de Leon, an American born boy of Dominican heritage.  Oscar is one of those people who just don't fit in.  Aside from be physically large, his interests tend toward the fantasy realm (which is totally okay with me), which doesn't seem to be the norm in New Jersey where he lives.  His mother escaped from the Dominican Republic and from it's brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo.

Ultimately it is a family trip that leads to a downward spiral that Oscar is unable to save himself from.

I listened to the audio book as read by Mr. Diaz.  His voice and pronunciation of the Spanish words pulled me into the story. This could not overcome the confusion when the story jumped around in time.  One moment listening to details of Oscar's life in New Jersey and then across the ocean to the Dominican Republic and the terrors heaped on his mother and grandparents.  I found this very hard to follow.  It is almost as though there were two books being read in alternate chapters.  I wanted to hear more about Oscar and less about Dominican history. 

I kept listening and it became clearer to me that the present for Oscar could not be understood without knowing the history not only of his family, but of their country.  I think that I might have followed the history better if I'd seen it in print and been able to re-read those portions. 

On the whole, I did enjoy this book and I found the characters to be truly believable even as I shook my head and muttered "why did she do that", "oh why didn't he just walk away".

I downloaded this audio book from my library.

Winner 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
Winner 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award

Cover photo from the author's website.

This is my 14th book for the Read, Remember, Recommend Challenge being sponsored by  There is still time to join the challenge and win bookish prizes. 

My next book for this challenge is the audio book of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.


Anonymous said...

I like this book when I read it diaz seems to have put a lot of his own life into it ,thus making it seem very true ,all the best stu

Heather said...

I definitely agree with you Stu. This must have been a difficult book for Mr. Diaz to write.

Dorte H said...

Interesting. I can understand that it would be difficult to follow. Perhaps there are just books which are not well-suited for the audio book format?

Heather said...

Hi Dorte,
It would have been very handy to have a chart/timeline that showed political leadership of the Dominican Republic during the course of this book. That is one thing that added to my confusion.

(M)ary said...

I find some books are easier to read and some are easier to listen to! I think anything like changes in time or point of view are hard to catch in audio if the publisher doesn't handle it well with good transitions.