It's possible the movie "Witness" has stayed with me for many years because of the way it seamlessly blended three disparate elements; it was a convincing love story, an intense police thriller, and a non-patronizing examination of a unique culture. If I'm right, Junot Diaz' 2007 novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" will remain with me even longer.
This book has so many ingredients, I savored it like a good meal. Here's my incomplete recipe:
* Take one teenage misfit, searching for love;
* Add a significant taste of the brutal modern day history of the Dominican Republic;
* Mix in believable elements of a complex sibling relationship, including a dash of assimilation and feminism;
* Let it all simmer in a multi-generational immigrant sauce, made of equal parts romance, race, violence and sex;
* Be sure to mix up the ingredients and feel no obligation to follow the recipe in order.
A sure test of this author's skill? Though telegraphed in the title, the eponymous character's undoing still packed a wallop. I suppose a small measure of my enjoyment was related to the familiar New Jersey locales and a modern sensibility, but what Diaz concocted here is a story for anywhere, anytime.
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