I just finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a novel by Junot Díaz. This was the first piece I had read by Díaz, and overall I though it was a very good read. Oscar is an overweight and nerdy Dominican growing up in New Jersey, but the story follows both his life and that of his family’s past generations in the Dominican Republic, and how the family and the country has been plagued by fukú for ages (“it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fukú on the world, and we’ve all been in the shit ever since.”) I guess given the title I wasn’t expecting the story to focus as much on Oscar’s family as it did, but the storytelling from different points of view was one of the reasons the story seemed so complex, real, and compelling. In the parts focused on older generations, you get some of the shocking violence that occurred under the bloody, authoritarian rule of Rafael Trujillo, who became president in 1930 and dominated DR government until his assassination in 1961. Seeing how characters survived what they did and how it affected the rest of their lives — from their relationships with their family to their immigrant experiences and how they felt about their country — was interesting and powerful. In the parts focused on Oscar, it’s a coming-of-age story, a young geeky guy struggling make friends and meet girls and dealing with repeated disappointment. The casual narrative style was fresh and the story really felt alive and unlike any other. I liked the long historical footnotes. First off, they weren’t your typical footnotes, being very easy to read. Also the details and stories helped make the story’s backdrop much more vivid, especially since my knowledge of DR history going in was pretty much zilch. Some of the book’s other unique features (science fiction, fantasy, and gaming references related to Oscar’s interests, along with lots of Spanish phrases) were lost on me, but I didn’t mind much. In general, my favorite kinds of books are those that transport me to a world I’ve never seen before, with unique and complex characters and this novel absolutely succeeded. I recommend it.