Book Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

These days, I keep a running tab of what I'm reading on goodreads, which I'm pretty much using as a way to remember what I think about the books that I read. I have a nasty habit of reading things and forgetting their content, so taking the time to write about them has been a helpful way of keeping track of my thoughts. In any case, I'll occasionally be posting some of my reviews here. Here's a review of a book that I just finished today, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


Despite whatever fronts I may put on, my core being is a big nerd that falls really easily in love with women that I am too shy to pursue (or who are otherwise basically unattainable). So, imagine my interest in a book that is nominally about a fat nerdy kid that falls really easily in love but is terrible with women. So, basically, a book about a hyperbolic version of myself, except from the DR and really fat.

Unfortunately, I never really got the full sense of resonance and connection that I was looking for (a la Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, where the previously aforementioned resonance was almost unbearable at times). For starters, the book is really about the terrible, terrible misfortunes that befell not only that fat kid, but also his entire blighted family. Many of these are quite sad, but oddly non-compelling. The underlying trope of the book is that the family is cursed, which adds an element of "magical realism" (or whatever kids call it these days) that makes the events feel less like a human tragedy and more like a set of just really crappy events. That the family members are bull-headed, stubborn, and given ample warning of the oncoming tragedies also makes it hard to feel really sorry for anyone.

Also, there's a ton of stuff in Spanish here, which I could only partially understand/guess at. Me being the completionist that I am, I constantly felt like I was missing out on stuff while reading this book, since I didn't have Internet access and couldn't look up every phrase that got tossed around (and there are a lot). This feeling kept me from fully immersing myself in the book, and at times made me feel as if the author was just peppering the pages with little things to make the world seem more authentic (much like he does with his nerd references, which I think in some cases were actually wrong).

All in all, it was a fine book, but it didn't really do it for me. I will say that there were definite moments that touched me, and that at times, I definitely empathized with some of the despair that Oscar felt throughout the course of his life. And the story of Oscar's grandfather was also crushing. But I think overall, I found this book to be just OK.

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