The most talked about — and praised — first novel of 2007, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who — from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister — dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and,... read more
Oscar de Leon is born into a working-class Dominican family with a large history, and most important of all, a large fuku (curse). He grows up in New Jersey and is nerdy, fat, and widely made fun of all through elementary school. High school runs pretty much the same way, with him only... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Oscar de Leon is born into a working-class Dominican family with a large history, and most important of all, a large fuku (curse). He grows up in New Jersey and is nerdy, fat, and widely made fun of all through elementary school. High school runs pretty much the same way, with him only growing larger and even more nerdy. However, a ray of hope shines when he meets a girl named at his SAT prep. class, and begins to form his first real relationship with a girl. However, this does not last long. His trend of nerdiness and no girlfriends continues all through college, although he at least tries a couple of times to change himself--getting in better shape, branching out a little more, and over all trying to control his nerdy outbursts. This improvement is also coupled with his first suicide attempt. By this time in his life, it is obvious that he is struggling with serious depression. After college, Oscar moves back home and begins teaching at his old high school. He is not well accepted by his students who show him zero respect. This causes him to continue to struggle with despair. At this point he is looking his best ever. The next summer, Oscar goes to Santo Domingo to live with La Inca for a while. It is here that he meats Ybon, who he starts building a relationship with and seeing every day. Ybon's boyfriend the "capitan" is jealous of Oscar, and when Ybon gives Oscar his first kiss right in front of him, he and his gang drag Oscar to a canefield and beats him senseless. Oscar goes home to New Jersey for a while, but then returns to Santa Domingo to see Ybon. Despite numerous warnings about the danger he was putting himself in by seeing Ybon, he continues to stay in Santo Domingo and ignore her boyfriend. During his time in Santo Domingo, Ybon and Oscar write each other many sincere love letters because they cannot openly see each other. After about a month of this, Oscar finally goes to see Ybon. This is when to of the "Capitan's" buddies show up and take Oscar to the cane field again. Oscar is murdered there. After his death, his family and Yunior come to Santo Domingo to get the body. Soon after this, Beli loses her battle with cancer and dies, La Inca sells her house and moves back to Bani, and Yunior and Lola break up due to Yunior's unloyal ways.
Throughout the book, there are sections about Oscar's family history, mostly his mother's childhood and his grandfather's demise.
“The fat! The miles of stretch marks! The tumescent horribleness of his proportions! He looked straight out of a Daniel Clowes comic book. Or like the fat blackish kid in Beto Hernandez's Palomar. Jesus Christ, he whispered. I'm a Morlock.”
“It's never the changes we want that change everything.”Lola de León
“What he wanted was to suck Beli's enormous breasts, to fuck her pussy until it was a mango-juice swamp..”
“(Ybon was the one who suggested calling the wait something else. Yeah, like what? Maybe, she said, you could call it life.)”Yunior
“So this is what everybody's always talking about! Diablo! If only I'd known. The beauty! The beauty!”Oscar
“You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto. Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest.”
“Back when the rest of us were learning to play wall ball and pitch quarters and drive our older brothers' cars and sneak dead soldiers from under our parents' eyes, he was gorging himself on a steady stream of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, Bova, and Heinlein, and even the Old Ones who were already beginning to fade--E.E. "Doc" Smith, Stapledon, and the guy who wrote all the Doc Savage books--moving hungrily from book to book, author to author, age to age.”
Chapter One: GhettoNerd at the End of the World (1974-1987)
Chapter Two: Wildwood (1982-1985)
Chapter Three: The Three Heartbreaks of Belicia Cabral (1955-1962)
Chapter Four: Sentimental Education (1988-1992
Chapter Five: Poor Abelard (1944-1946)
Chapter Six: Land of the Lost (1992-1995)
Chapter Seven: The Final Voyage
Chapter Eight: The End of the Story
The Final Letter
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