It is a testament to Junot Diaz’ writing that I was able to read this book.
With subject matter that can best be described as challenging, the beautiful writing carries this story.
Oscar Wao is a young Dominican-American growing up in New Jersey. He’s overweight and a nerd, more into the video games, geeky space stories and J.R.R. Tolkein.
The book focuses first on Oscar, later on his sister, Lola, and then on his mother, Belicia. Mom came from the Dominican Republic in the Diaspora caused by Trujillo’s brutal regime. But first she was a victim of that regime, not once, but twice.
The family believes it has a curse, or fuku, hanging over it. They sure have more than their share of bad luck. And they make some bad choices to give the bad luck a boost.
The book then goes back to tell us about the grandfather, a successful doctor who gets caught up in the Trujillo brutality. This is a Caribbean dictatorship, so you can imagine the hellish treatment, the torture, etc.
At the end, it’s Oscar’s turn to come back to Santo Domingo, where he at last finds love, a love that proves lethal.
Like I said, not a pretty story, but a fascinating read. I can see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
A note: Spanish words sprinkled throughout made me wish for a dictionary in the back and frequent references to Oscar’s “genres” and anime heroes didn’t mean a lot to me, though they did add to the sense that Oscar was estranged from society.