“Success, after all, loves a witness, but failure can’t exist without one.”
― Junot Díaz,
Junot Diaz earned his mark on the literary world in 2007 with his tale of an ostracized king of all nerds. The novel is primarily literary fiction with hints of fantasy and folklore sprinkled here and there. This novel is so popular that I probably do not need give a synopsis, but here it goes…
Oscar is first generation American born Dominican. His mother was forced to leave the Dominican Republic for tragic reasons years before, and now Oscar, his sister, and his mother live in Paterson, New Jersey. Growing up in American culture, Oscar finds himself in a (then) undesirable group called “nerds”. He loves comics, fantasy and scifi novels, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Dungeons and Dragons–essentially, if it was considered nerdy, Oscar was into it. However, all of these things, combined with Oscar’s Comic Book Guy (Simpsons reference) appearance, have resulted in him becoming an outcast even among his friends.
All Oscar wants is to be loved, all his sister Lola wants is freedom, all their mother wants is a mystery, but all they can do is survive. We watch as each story line unfolds into misery. Oscar eventually becomes a shunned adult, and traveling back to the island where his mother’s journey first began. Oscar gives it all he’s got on one last chance for love. Given not only his cursed family history, but the title of the book, we can all guess how it ends up.
Personally, I barely liked the book. It had potential at the start, but it quickly turned into every other Junot Diaz novel. To me, it seems as if Diaz is a one trick pony. He uses the same narrator (Yunior) as he did in This is How You Lose Her (which he plans to use several more times), and he is the worse kind of Dominican stereotype. I had a friend who had the pleasure of meeting Diaz at a convention, and she told him I didn’t care for the character. His response was, “Then she probably dates guys like that.” Which, for one, is a big assumption (and incorrect), and two, not the greatest response for a writer to have. Some times authors just have to accept they made a character not everyone will like.
If you enjoyed anything else Diaz has written, then you will probably like the novel. Or if you just love stereotypes.The decision is yours!