About Books #125: Dominicana

There’s something to be said for “reading to expand your horizons”, but Dominicana? Well, let’s just say that it didn’t just expand my horizons, it also (kind of, or just: completely) made me want to either throw the book into a wall or reach through the screen and shake a couple of people. Possible punch them. Or like…

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The story

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.

The opinion

C – characters
A – atmosphere
W – writing
P – plot
I – intrigue
L – logic
E – enjoyment

This book – I didn’t just fly through it. As in: I finished within about 2 hours of starting on the first page. The story drags you along, it is narrated in such a natural way that, while the circumstances of Ana’s life are completely foreign to me, every single choice she made felt absolutely natural.

Combine that with a culture that is so interesting to me, an era that is often mystified, and circumstances which, to this day, still occur? And you’re left with the kind of story that can leave you breathless.

Women are the main plot and motivation of this story. And let’s be real, I’m kind of annoyed at the whole “women must never be friends”-spiel. It was really interesting how the perspective on each woman was also linked to when they moved to America. Like how the choices Ana’s sister made, basically shifted the “responsibility” for her family towards Ana. Or how, in a way, Ana almost had the “best” (if saddest) deal: if nothing else, at least she’ll be able to become a New Yorker, where, for example, Caridad, will always be “a foreigner”.

The rating: 3.5/5

Honestly, this book was an experience – and while it isn’t a happy story – it was a really good one. This is definitely one of those books that I’m so happy to (have) read! (Goodreads, The Story Graph).