I started The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz last night. I've been meaning to read it for over a year, but couldn't commit to buying it for some reason. Well, I got it out of the library, and based on what I read last night, I better buy myself a copy to own, because it's fantastic.
I'm about a third of the way through - very tired today, although it didn't help that one of my greyhounds was shaking in my bed afraid of the thunderstorm for half the night.
It's about Oscar, a Dominican Republic immigrant who lives with his family in Paterson, NJ. He's a nerd, unpopular - and Diaz really gets this right. Oscar is like the nerdy kids I've known, not some sanitized version that just likes math, or plays chess, or has glasses or something. He's obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings, and a bunch of other books I honestly haven't even heard of. He has no sense of how to talk to girls, he's overweight but won't bother to exercise, he stays inside - you can tell when a character is true or not, and Oscar is true, he's real.
The story is told in a mix of geeky references (which I love, when I get them), profane slang, and Spanish. In addition to charting the lives of one Dominican family, it's also acting as a quickie course in Carribean history for me. This sentence is a good example:
"In the days of the Trujillato, Balaguer was just one of El Jefe's most efficient ringwraiths."
It's funny, it's fast-paced, it's moving - here's the problem. It's made no secret that Oscar dies (hey, the word "brief" is in the title) when still a teenager. I have no idea how, but I don't like it. I hate having characters I care about die. I just hope it's earned, and not the sort of thing done solely to tug on people's heartstrings.