Over the past several years I have begun to enjoy reading memoirs. There’s something about learning about someone else’s life that fascinates and captivates me. I guess it has something to do with being able to relate with someone you have never met and understanding that you are not alone. Although The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is fiction, I thought that it read similarly to a memoir, which actually surprised me since I had started the book anticipating a fictitious story surrounding Oscar Wao. However, Oscar may be the main focus of the story, but his family plays a large role and helps the story unfold from multiple angles.
I have to admit that it took me several years after being recommended this book to actually read it because of the footnotes included with the story. Lame excuse, I know. But there’s something about seeing paragraphs of footnotes that makes me lose my resolve. Luckily, I am not alone. A coworker who had just finished reading this book said he was put off at first by the footnotes as well, but he assured me that they really weren’t that bad. And he was right. Although lengthy, the footnotes provide a lot of great historical and pop culture information that help in the telling of the story. In fact, the book may not work so well without them.
One of the coolest parts about the book was the amount of Spanish used throughout. It made the story feel authentic, which I loved, despite it holding me back a little. Since I don’t know any Spanish, I had to keep my phone nearby to look up the phrases (Junot Diaz does not provide a translation, which only became problematic with the more slang terms) which slowed my reading. But a lot of the phrases were repeated throughout the book and by the end I barely needed to look them up.
So this is the lesson I learned from reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: Do not be afraid to read out of your comfort zone. A whole new world may be opened to you.