Likely Stories - Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Dominicana is a novel I cannot stop thinking about.
This is the third work of fiction from author Angie Cruz, with each of her novels drawing inspiration from both her Dominican roots and her hometown of New York City.
For Domincana she was inspired by her mother to write the story of Ana, a young girl growing up in poverty in the Dominican countryside in the early 1960s.
Ana's mother insists that her beautiful green eyes are the family's lottery ticket, especially because Ana has caught the attention of Juan, a gruff Dominican businessman twice her age, who offers to marry 15 year old Ana and take her to live in New York City.
Ana has no love for Juan and is terrified to leave her family but knows she has no choice, marrying Juan is what's best for the family. Their land has dried up and they are hurting financially but "Juan can fix this" Ana's mother insists, he is a businessman after all. This begins a constant theme in the book, self versus family.
The book is told in first person, which I loved. You know Ana's thoughts, emotions, and this deep conflict she faces of whether to follow her own heart or to live for the well-being of her family.
It is no spoiler to tell you that Ana leaves her entire world behind and moves with Juan to New York out of obligation to her family with hopes that they will join her eventually.
As you read Dominicana you notice this stark contrast between the dream life in the US that Ana is sold and the reality that she arrives in. Ana's family tell her that she will be living like an American princess. But after arriving in Manhattan it is clear that this is far from the truth. What follows is really the heart of the book. Ana, despite every odd stacked against her fights to carve out a place of belonging and independence in this new life. When Ana gets a taste of this independence she notes how she often feels like an outsider looking in.
While reading this book I truly felt like I was there beside Ana, rooting for her through every bit of the misery, joy and heartbreak. I kept thinking that 'yes, Ana is a fictional character but this is the untold story of so many immigrant women throughout the world.'
The author Angie Cruz has stated that Dominicana was inspired by her own mothers story since like Ana, her mom was married off and sent to the US with the hopes that the whole family would be able to move. Cruz has said that her goal is to tell the stories of unsung heroes in her community who've made huge sacrifices for the good of their families. Judging by the wonderful reception her books have received it seems she's doing an incredible job.
Publishers Weekly said of Dominicana, "It is enthralling. Ana's growth and gradually blooming wisdom is described with a raw, expressive voice. Cruz's winning novel will linger in the readers mind long after the close of the story."
I personally agree and cannot wait to read more from Angie Cruz.