As we move through this chapter on Beli (Oscar’s mother) as a young girl in Santo Domingo, there is a preponderance of background and history woven in, about a country in upheaval under a cruel regime. This, I believe, along with the footnotes of further explanation, is a large part of why this novel won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and a number of other awards. The manner in which Diaz handles the atrocity and the interaction of the family and town within that environment is a bit reminiscent of Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude where there are battles on the homefront within a small arena that are just a part of the big picture.
There is also the narrative voice which is no-frills and yet sprinkled consistently with Spanish words that seem to act as a focus and a single-word often encompasses the tone of the story. The voice is one of whispered gossip, or memory, a tale that is told as a matter of fact; a matter of history.
Diaz breaks through the fourth wall with this writing, inviting the reader to agree with the narrator in his own assessment of the story. He tells it as if he’s in sympathy with the reader and himself cannot understand the actions of his characters.