I just finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and I have to say I was quite impressed. The novel is the rambling story of Oscar and the DeLeons, a Dominican family with a rough history. Originally appearing in pieces in the New Yorker, the story follows not only Oscar, but his mother Beli, his sister Lola, his grandmother La Inca, and his reluctant but best friend Yunior.
The story weaves its way in and out of Patterson, NJ and the DR. Moving through time to show the parallels between three generations of a family obsessed with the Fuku.
The narrator is largely Yunior, speaking as though he were Uatu the Watcher, helpless to prevent the story from unfolding. He tells much of the story using sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book metaphors comparing Beli (Oscar’s mother) to Unus the Untouchable of X-Men fame. Using almost the omnipresence of the Watcher, Yunior moves back and forth through time, showing the troubled history of Lola, Beli, Beli’s father & La Inca, and Oscar. Each story reveals more and more that hint at the fate of Oscar’s story.
In the end, Yunior is much like Nick from The Great Gatsby, a part of the story and struggling against larger forces. His life never quite turns out the way he hopes and he’s unable to stop the hand of fate and movement of the Fuku through the family.
I can totally see why this book was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and think that so far it’s the best book I’ve read in 2009. While it’s still early in the year, it’s going to set a high standard for the other books I read this year.
Shannon also read this book and reviewed it here.
Up next for me, Steward O’Nan’s A Prayer for the Dying.