Get in the head of the most resilient girl in 1960s Dominican Republic and NYC—and maybe even the world.
Good to know
No quotation marks
Why I love it
Author, Those Who Knew
The best novels, I find, are books I begin for one reason and end up loving for another. That unpredictability is what makes a novel come alive for me. For many years, I have admired the vitality of Angie Cruz’s writing, and I anticipated that Dominicana would be full of dynamic scenes and fearless candor. What I didn’t expect was how intensely and often I would go on considering the resilience of its mesmerizing protagonist, Ana, after finishing this book.
Dominicana celebrates the tenacity of Ana Cancion, a 15 year old forced to marry a 32 year old as a business arrangement. Raised on a farm in the Dominican Republic, Ana ends up stuck in a hot apartment in New York City with a terrifying husband who obliges her to have sex she doesn’t want to have. Terribly alone in New York living with this oppressive, older husband Juan, Ana forges a bond with Juan’s younger brother, Cesar, and her sense of the possibilities of what her life may hold begin to expand.
Despite being trapped in a terrifying marriage she didn’t choose, Ana does not resign herself to quiet suffering. She remains defiantly open to joy. What fuels a person’s capacity for resilience is an elusive question that fiction is uniquely suited to answering, and Angie Cruz explores it in this novel with such subtlety and insight.
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.