Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.
As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.
My Review of Dominicana
I finished Dominicana in under 24 hours, and y’all, I loved it. I had been seeing it around for a little bit before receiving an ALC from my favorite company, libro.fm, so I had to give it a try, and it was absolutely captivating.
Dominicana is the immigration-to-NYC story that has been written about many times before, but this one is far from typical. It’s written from the perspective of a 15-year-old bride who is brought to New York City and struggles with things no 15-year-old should have to.
In fact, this is the only part I found a little unbelievable — not that she suffered all of these injustices but the insights she spoke about following them seemed to be that of an older woman. I wasn’t quite convinced that her recollections could have been that of a 15-year-old, but perhaps then I’m the exact sort of person who should be reading this book, and I’m completely wrong. I say “a little” unbelievable because it didn’t distract from the story at all, and was more something I thought about later.
The thing about this story is that there’s no real “antagonist”, or at least, not one painted for us in black and white. All the characters, even the ones you might hate throughout the story, are just deeply flawed humans, and Cruz does such a beautiful job of crafting them. That’s what makes this story so compelling, I think — it was allowed to have rough edges.
If you have a chance, absolutely grab this one — I personally suspect it’s going to be a big deal in the fall, and in our political climate, we need more stories like this one.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz is scheduled to be released September 3, 2019. Although Flatiron Books and libro.fm provided me with a free review copy, this did not in any way affect my review.