Am I Missing Something? May 7, 2008
I just do not get what the big deal is with this book! I have not read Diaz's previous book, Drown, so maybe something there identifies him as a major talent, but I'm sorry to say I don't get that impression from this novel.
The story is slow moving, it jumps forward and backward through time, and changes character points-of-view at random, often without identifying which character is speaking. But the most egregious thing is that for the entire first half of the book, the author maintains a third-person omniscient narrative voice. Then all of a sudden the "narrator" is actually a character in the story? And maybe it's implied that the narrator is the one writing the story? What? In addition to which, the narrator-character boils down to exactly this: "I am a Dominican man, therefore I like to chase girls and get laid." What?? As a matter of fact, all the characters are fairly one-dimensional (the mother is a bossy shrew, the sister is stubborn and ambitious, Oscar is a nerdy loner, etc).
The only thing I enjoyed (and believe me, I use that term loosely) in the book were the historical bits about the Dominican Republic during the reign of the dictator Trujillo.
In all, I wouldn't recommend the book and I certainly won't read it again myself. I did finish it, but it was a chore to plow through and when I was finished I just felt relieved to have done with it. Sorry.