The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Díaz

Book cover

While reading this, I was glad to be pretty well-versed in the sci-fi and fantasy classics that the author continually references: Morgoth, “mellon”, Chakobsa. I feel like the book would lose something for people not familiar with these.

I liked this book quite a bit. Like “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” it started out seeming like a pretty good book, then transitioned to a really good book in the second part when the perspective of the narrative changed. I was fascinated to learn about the Trujillo dictatorship in the DR, which I had never heard of before, and to confirm with Wikipedia that Diaz was basically not exaggerating anything. The stories of the DR police state reminded me a lot of things I have read about Communism in Eastern Europe, particularly Ceacescu’s Romania and Hoxha’s Albania.

The book manages to be a fun read while also being pretty hard-hitting in a number of ways. The author has a distinctive slangy and polyglot voice that reminded me of Jachym Topol, another favorite.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars