The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao won in 2008, and while I enjoyed it for the most part, it was not my favorite.
The book is about a Dominican super-nerd and his family and their curse, or fuku. But the most annoying person in the book is Oscar. I enjoyed the chapters about his sister and his mother more, but Oscar is really too nerdy and forever alone for me. I appreciated all the references to Fantasy/SciFi and comics in his chapters, but Oscar as a character was annoying…it took me a lot longer to make it through his chapters.
Another thing that slowed down my reading was the amount of Spanish in this book. I liked the tone of the book, like the narrator was actually telling you this story as if you were sitting at his table or something, there’s a lot of enjoyable slang, and the Spanish did add to that feel. If I knew Spanish, I would have liked it better of course, but a few times I had to have Google Translate help me out.
The ending was kind of disappointing too. It wasn’t a surprise or anything, given the title of the book, but I felt like it was just kind of pathetic…which I guess when you look at Oscar through the rest of the book, it’s kind of a fitting end.
I got this one in hardback through my local library.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is the sixth book that I’ve read for my challenge, and thus far it has been my favorite.
The book is a collection of short stories, all told by people connected to a small town in Maine. In addition to this this all the stories are linked by being related in some way to Olive Kitteridge.She’s not the main focus of all of the stories, but I think she makes an appearance (even if it’s for the characters to note that they don’t really care much for her) in all of them.
Olive herself is kind of a bitch, though I grew to like her more and more. I never cared much for her son, but I thought her husband’s story “Pharmacy” was my favorite. Henry’s character isn’t as complex as Olive, but he’s more likable. My next favorite story was probably “The Piano Player”, though I’m not really sure why except that it definitely brought to mind the Billy Joel song “Piano Man”.
The stories all feel like snapshots into peoples’ lives at one particular moment — and while they’re all short (13 in the 270 page hardback for an average of ~21 pages each), you still have time to develop feeling about each new (or returning) set of characters. I feel like this book would be a good choice for a book club or something similar. I find myself wanting to discuss the stories with someone, and find out what other people thought about the way this book handles the characters and emotions.
I definitely recommend this one.
I checked this book out in hardback from my local library.