Oscar dé Leon is a lovable but dangerously overweight super nerd growing up in New Jersey. Like any other teen, he struggles with trying to get a date, losing his virginity, and making it to adulthood. Oscar, one of the story’s three narrators, is hellbent on falling in love with just about every girl he meets. The story revolves around multiple aspects of Oscar’s brief life, from exploring his family’s old world Dominican roots, to his aspirations of being the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien, the long awaited first kiss, and the Fukú (a family curse that has haunted the de Léon family for generations). It also deals with the tyrannical legacy Rafeal Trujillo left behind in the Dominican Republic.
As a young male who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, I find it hard not to relate with Oscar on some level. References to the X-Men, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and countless other pop culture genres ease you into the perspective of the protagonist. The other narrators of this book bring perspective and substance to the rest of the story for all readers regardless of age, race, or gender.
Ultimately, Díaz provides a modern interpretation of society’s endless capacity to persevere in the face of adversity, heartbreak, and loss. If you haven’t picked up a copy or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, you should. It’s one of those stories that gives you perspective into the life of the troubled, sad, hopeful, and otherwise human.
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