The Wiscasset Area Book Club selected The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz as our choice to read for the Great American Read. Of the seven members who attended our June meeting, three read the entire book, two were still reading it and planned to finish it, and two gave up after a couple of chapters. All members agreed that the numerous footnotes, use of unfamiliar Spanish words, constant changes in narration and vivid descriptions of torture, made this book a bit of a struggle for us. We did however feel that we learned a lot about the history of the Dominican Republic, as previous to reading this book, none of us were familiar with the dictator Rafael Trujillo and his atrocities. Several of us enjoyed Oscar’s numerous references to science fiction and fantasy novels, but for other members these made no sense and were more of a distraction. The symbolism of the mongoose sparked much discussion and googling at out meeting, as did the references to the “man without a face.”
We felt that the novel’s immigration undertones matched what is currently happening in our country and could not help but refer to recent accusations of sexual misconduct against the author Junot Diaz and compare them to events that occurred to characters in the book. One of our club’s goals this year was to read a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, which reading this book allowed us to achieve, but sadly not a favorite for our group.
We do greatly appreciate PBS adopting our club to participate in the Great American Read, it was a wonderful opportunity to expand our literary horizons.