The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Oscar, a nerdy virgin idealist, believes in true love and the fantasy worlds he reads for fun. Cursed by "fukú" (curse and doom of the new world) no matter how hard he tries, he can't get it together.
Our cool narrator, a character used in Diaz's past work (Diaz himself?) takes us from Oscar's tragic life in New Jersey back to the Domenican Republic where we journey through three generations of family tragedy, and DR's history (especially Trujillo's frightening regime between 1930 and 1961).
Diaz has a knack for writing stories more immediate than anything else I've read. His writing is funny, jammed-packed with intrigue (how does oscar die? Is that eery death-mongoose real?) sad, touching, and for a cultural studies nerd like me, so clever-he uses urban Spanish slang, literature and fantastical references to describe the political climate in DR!