Oscar is "a fat sci-fi-reading nerd." His short life is characterized by a desire for girls, rejection, escape into fantasy and sci-fi novels, and depression. What's behind his misery is fukú, the curse of the New World, directed at his family because his grandfather and mother had the temerity to resist long-time Dominican dictator Trujillo, thus unleashing "a fukú most powerful, down to the seventh generation and beyond."
The story uses fukú to explain the unhappiness that follows this one family from generation to generation. No Savior appears to remove this curse; it is relentless, appearing sometimes like lightning and sometimes over a lifetime. Diaz tells his multi-cultural tale using a mix English, Spanish, and Spanglish, in styles ranging from haut formal to ghetto obscene. His narrator is so often brutishly crude that some sensitive moments are hidden under the noise, perhaps like Oscar's nerdy, Tolkien-loving soul, is hidden under his weight.