When I was seven years old, homeschooled and spent most of my afternoons in the local library, I learned to write book reviews. They were an assignment that my mom gave me every week; I remember turning them in to her matted on construction paper, loathing them, utterly relieved when they were out of my hands. Every page completed was a castle built in my juvenile fairytale.
Like the act of writing thank-you cards, however, my ability to write book reviews has long since been trained into a habit. It is not something I do exceptionally well, but it is something I can do at any time, and that I feel uncomfortable not doing when the occasion calls for it.
Right now I am reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz. Normally I would wait until I finish a book to review it, but despite knowing neither how to pronounce the main character's last name nor the author's first name, I can't stop talking about it, so obviously it's a good one, and I don't want to wait any longer to put in a good word for it.
The book was published in 2007 and has since won a Pulitzer Prize. I probably wouldn't have picked it up except the lovely hardcover was a comforting sight on top of a pile of hippie reject clothes in the free box in the common room. I guess someone had read it for class and was passing it along (and most likely I'll return it to the free box when I'm done with it). Oscar, one of the three main characters, is one of those who sticks with you, and whether or not I have him in print on my shelf, I'm not going to forget what he's about.
I'm halfway through the book, and I don't yet really know what he's about. Science fiction. Overeating. Being afraid of women. Being the weirdest Dominican man there ever was. But Oscar comes from a family, a cursed family, and the rest of them are just as fascinating as he is. Long-legged Lola, his sister, always saves the day, and crazy Beli, their mom, is a curse in and of herself.
Thanks to Díaz's hilariously informative footnotes, I've learned a bit of Dominican history from this story. The author's voice is acerbic yet close and maybe the reason I'm being so slow to finish Oscar's story is because, really, I don't know how I'll take it ending.