Bonney Readers on 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao'

The Bonney Readers of Cornish chose The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – no one had read the book before and most had never heard of it. We were semi-confident it was a good choice as it won a Pulitzer and also, one of our members was a bit familiar with Junot Diaz's immigrant story and thought his writing might reflect a unique perspective and make for good conversation.

Most of us were severely disappointed in the book and several could not read it after the first few pages. One reader attempted to read a bit of the beginning, the middle and then end in the hopes you could understand the story line. That strategy may work for some books but not this one. The official tally was three in favor of Junot's "adrenalin-powered prose" and five dead set against it for a variety of reasons. For example, the fantasy, science fiction and gaming references were distracting; the crude language was disturbing; the Spanish words were unfamiliar and the footnotes annoying - all got in the way of the story line and keeping track of just what the heck was going on. One reader confessed that in her 70 plus years she never abandoned a book once started until this one and several of us wondered about the criteria for the Pulitzer award. The book evoked very strong emotions.

Favorable comments referred to Diaz's portrayal of the immigrant experience, the introduction to Dominican Republic's violent history and the deep and rich descriptions of Oscar's family. One reader who did not like the book concluded, "The book helps reminds us of how much all humans have in common, regardless of which country we're from or what language we use." Another added, "I was put in a place I will never be." And another who read the book on a family beach vacation said her 20-something nephew was very impressed that his aunt was reading such a hip book. Maybe it was a good pick after all?