The novel chronicles not just the "brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao," an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey and obsessed with science fiction, fantasy and women, but also the curse of the "fukú" that has plagued Oscar's family for generations and the Caribbean since colonization and slavery. The middle sections of the novel center on the lives of Oscar's mother Beli and his grandfather Abelard under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Rife with footnotes, science fiction and fantasy references, and street Spanglish, the novel is also a meditation on story-telling, Dominican diaspora and identity, masculinity, and the contours of authoritarian power.
The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. Time magazine's Lev Grossman named it #1 of the Top 10 Fiction Books of 2007, praising it as "a massive, heaving, sparking tragicomedy".