by Junot Díaz
Fiction 2007, 339 pages
I am giving up and moving on. This is the story of Oscar, and his sister Lola, and their mother Belicia. Oscar is an overweight geeky ghetto kid who has no social skills and longs to have a girlfriend. It moves from their lives in New Jersey to the Dominican Republic and back again. Except as the reader I never know which country we are in. The writing is lazy and leaves much to be desired, with sentences often missing verbs and no quotes on dialogue.
But the worst was the incessant use of Spanish words, phrases, and entire sentences, usually with no translation. Often, I could figure out the word or phrase from the context, but the effect of this jarring style was to continually knock me out of the story and into a place of attempting to interpret what Díaz was saying. And I have taken every Spanish course our local community college offers. If you want to get lost in a novel, this one does not suffice.
Long-time readers may recall that I was working my way through the Washington Post’s “Best Books from 1 to 100.” This is the book for a 20-year old. I appreciate Díaz's attempt to communicate what it is like to be an immigrant. I just think he failed, miserably.