“And maybe, just maybe, if she’s as smart and brave as I’m expecting she’ll be, she’ll take all that we’ve done and all we’ve learned and add her own insights and she’ll put an end to it. That is what, on my best days, I hope. What I dream.”–Yunior, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
- Here’s what happens:
- Junot Diaz explores the de Leon/Cabral family by plunging into the tumultuous history of the Dominican Republic and overlapping that with the darkest secrets of each of the dynamic characters. He starts with hopelessly nerdy Oscar, and his perpetual struggles to fit in and find love, and weaves Oscar’s plights in with his hard-headed sister Lola, his resilient mother–who grew up behind the “Platano curtain” in Trujillo’s DR–and roommate/narrator/typical Dominican playboy/secretly empathetic friend to the de Leon clan, Yunior. This is a story about cultural acceptance, about family, about the nature of love–and told from the perspective of a hilariously honest narrator who considers this group of people with love, respect, and a good sense of humor. Somehow–magically, artfully–all this brings the reader to evaluate how we treat each other, and how much society has truly changed. This is an absolutely breath-taking story.
- It’s good because:
- I knew I was going to love this book before I even cracked the cover. I devoured Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her last year, and it was clear to me that this author has the kind of voice I will always love. Diaz writes with snappy Spanglish and the kind of timeless dialogue that is both natural to the characters and philosophical in its universal truths. I hesitate to call anything unique in a world as multifaceted as ours, but Diaz’s voice is unlike anything I’ve ever read: quick, electric, and painfully poignant.
- Read if:
- You’re at all interested in reading the great voices of the 21st century before they’re staples of college syllabi throughout the country. I’ve said this about a book before, I know, but this book is a salient, cultural work of art that will speak to readers for generations to come.
Up next: The Netherlands with The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt!