The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Book Review

Junot_wao_coverA heartfelt tale that brings its readers real Dominican-American culture and history, as well as fictional struggles of an overweight nerd that feel just as real. Junot Díaz’s first novel mixes magic realism, comics, and sex-obssessed young men into the all-so-important family history of our main character, Oscar. Díaz’s novel questions how our family history molds our present as well as what is means to be an American. And in Oscar’s case, the two questions are endlessly interwoven.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has been named the best novel of the 21st Century so far by The Guardian and was listed as one of 11 21st Century Books Our Kids Will Read in School.

Narrator – Far from the story, Yet close at heart

I love the conflicting personality of the narrator. He is a typical, cocky, sex-driven college kid who tries and fails to hold a relationship with Oscar’s sister. Yet, he sees something in Oscar, something he can’t properly explain, that makes him befriend Oscar, when others seems disgusted by him.

The narrator, Yunior, is also an outsider with a distant yet curious view of the family. Most of the book is written in a “3rd person” perspective because Yunior was not present for most of the action. The parts he is present for are clear 1st person perspective. A tricky balance that Díaz pulls off well. Still, like any 1st person narrator, the reliability comes into question.


Junot Díaz balances the big and small, the love and hate, the real and magical, the American and Dominican with intricate precision. We view stories of many different time periods, in drastically different settings, and hear from different voices.

“It is Mr. Díaz’s achievement in this galvanic novel that he’s fashioned both a big picture window that opens out on the sorrows of Dominican history, and a small, intimate window that reveals one family’s life and loves.” – New York Times Book Review


4.5 Stars

A truly wondrous book that I recommend to all and I fully support teaching this book in schools. Why didn’t I give it five stars? Because it just failed to pull at my heartstrings. I was unable to relate to the characters, their struggles, the setting, therefore I didn’t get emotionally attached to this book.

About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, working editor, and permanent student of the world

Posted on July 22, 2015, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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