The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Summary

Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

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The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Summary

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Diaz. The novel focuses on the titular Oscar, but the narrative often switches to different points of view. Oscar’s family recently emigrated from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey, and the novel delineates their journey and the process of settling into a new society. While the novel does address the politics and experiences of being an immigrant, it also delves into fantasy, sci-fi, and magical realism.

The novel begins by introducing the concept of a fuku—a curse. The fuku was brought on by the Europeans who conquered the New World. It affects everyone who lived in the New World, and those involved in colonizing it. Rafael Trujillo, the murderous dictator of the Dominican Republic, also brings a fuku on those who live there. He is an evil ruler, and the novel is a zafa—a counter curse—against him.

Oscar laments the fact that he is not the typical Dominican ladies’ man—except when he was seven. When he was seven, he had two girlfriends—Maritza and Olga. Maritza demanded that Oscar choose between the two, so he chose Maritza. She broke up with him soon after, and from that point, Oscar believes his love life is cursed. He gained weight during puberty and developed acne.

In high school in New Jersey, life is difficult for Oscar. He is made fun of and is an outcast. Oscar’s passion for sci-fi and fantasy further alienates him from his classmates. Oscar has many crushes, but is unable to pursue any of them, due to his reputation. His family is not supportive of his interests. His sister Lola tells him to lose weight and his glasses. He tries, but is unsuccessful.

Oscar’s friends get girlfriends, but he has difficulties. After a summer in the Dominican Republic, he changes his look, hoping it will help him get a girlfriend. Soon, Oscar meets a girl at SAT prep, named Ana. Ana and Oscar spend time together, but Oscar soon learns about Ana’s much older ex-boyfriend named Manny. Manny was sometimes violent towards Ana, but it is obvious she still cares for him. Oscar and Ana go on dates, and even discuss getting intimate, but then Manny returns. Ana continues to lead Oscar on for a while, but he is ultimately heartbroken when Ana chooses Manny over him. Oscar graduates high school and prepares to go to Rutgers for college.

The novel also focuses on Lola and her relationship with her mother. Oscar and Lola’s mother develops breast cancer and has difficulties controlling Lola while she is sick. Lola rebels, cutting her hair and wearing dark clothing. She lives with her boyfriend, but is ultimately sent back to the Dominican Republic to live with her grandmother. There, she starts to feel normal again, until she meets a boy named Max and has a relationship with him. Lola looks at pictures of her mother when she was young and beautiful.

The novel then focuses on Beli, Lola and Oscar’s mother, when she was young. Beli lives with her adoptive mother, La Inca, in the Dominican Republic and rebels in a similar way to Lola. She falls in love with a man called The General. Unfortunately, The General is Trujillo’s brother-in-law—he is married to Trujillo’s sister. Trujillo’s men come and rough up Beli. Trujillo is assassinated the same night. Beli’s adoptive mother decides to send her to the US for safety.

Yunior is Oscar’s roommate in college. Yunior is in love with Lola and tries to help Oscar succeed with women. When Oscar is rejected, he gets depressed and drinks heavily. Yunior puts Oscar on an exercise plan, but when he pushes Oscar too hard, Lola yells at him, so he quits trying to help and does not spend as much time with Oscar. During this period, Oscar spends time with a girl named Jenni. Jenni breaks his heart, which causes Oscar to drink heavily and attempt suicide by jumping off a bridge. He breaks both legs and dislocates his shoulder, but is otherwise fine.

The narrative returns to the past again; Beli’s parents fail to survive Trujillo’s reign. Her mother and sisters die and her father barely survives a long prison sentence. Back in Oscar’s life, he graduates college and begins teaching at his old high school, but he is not happy. Oscar decides to go with his sister and mother to the Dominican Republic for the summer. There, Oscar falls in love with a prostitute named Ybon. Ybon’s boyfriend is captain of the police force, which is dangerous for Oscar. His family warns him to stay away from Ybon, but he does not listen. Ultimately, Ybon’s boyfriend and some of his men beat Oscar up, badly. After he recovers, his mother sends him back to New Jersey.

There, Oscar cannot stop thinking about Ybon and convinces Yunior to lend him money to fly back to the Dominican Republic. Once there, he chases after Ybon, who tries to make him leave, for his own good. She has feelings for him, but the captain will hurt Oscar regardless. Lola,Yunior and Beliall attempt to make Oscar return home, but to no avail. Then, the captain and his men find Oscar, they take him to a sugarcane field and shoot him, killing him.

Oscar’s mother dies soon after, when her cancer returns. They are buried next to each other. Yunior and Lola do not end up together, although Yunior dreams about being with Lola. He also has nightmares featuring Oscar. Lola marries a Cuban man and they have a child. Yunior and La Inca are her godparents. A package arrives eight months after Oscar’s death. In the package are pages from Oscar’s manuscript and a letter to Lola. The letter describes Oscar’s last days, including his intimate relationship with Ybon. They spent a weekend together at the beach before his death, and he felt as if he finally truly experienced love.