This book has been on pretty much every list of 'must reads' of the 21st Century and the fact that it won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize was a big red flag for me to dive into it. I had read Junot Diaz's other novel This Is How You Lose Her a few years back, and the voice of Diaz was so distinctive and unique, I have been saving Oscar for a few years. I finally picked it up in September, although I was reading it during my move and it took me a long time to finish, it was just as smart as I wanted it to be.
While the story is mainly about the buildup and brief life of an overweight nerd, the overall book was much more about the family curse and push and pull of each character; Oscar, his mother, and his sister. It weirdly echoed the novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides several times for me. It follows a families horrible luck and tragedy throughout several generations. Often times I was unsure where the story was leading or how it was relatable or important, and then felt super betrayed by the time I caught up to the sad meat of the story. While it follows different story lines, its not linear, hopping around and building the pieces backwards.
Oscar comes from a strong Dominican family, but was raised in New Jersey. Junot Diaz's writing style is weaved in and out with Dominican slang, while sometimes it was lost on me, most of the time I loved that aspect because it felt like the English language didn't suffice. I think the cultural aspect of this book is what was so interested and also challenging for me, so different than how I was raised but also unexpected that I was unsure which characters perspective to trust. The perspective is told from a semi-third party, which was interesting but also took me a bit too long to catch on to. I kept getting stumped by this book, and I don't think that was the intention, but I was obviously very distracted while reading it apparently.
While I did super enjoy this book, (and specifically compared to Diaz's other books + Pulitzer winners from pre-and-post years) I was still expecting a bit more. Its a great reminder/eye-opener on perspective and opinion and the thick thread of family ties though. I loved the main character Oscar, I wanted to give him a hug and hang out with him, he was portrayed as a very realistic person. I think owning this and having so much hype built around it for the past few years was my only downfall. I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it, but there are about 10 other books I have read this year that I would push on you first.