Dominicana – Angie Cruz
One word: Unputdownable.
Oooh we have another 5 star review, this time for Dominicana!! After loving Girl, Woman, Other, I decided to make it my mission to read all the books shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’m excited to see so many incredible women writers getting the recognition they deserve! Men could never xx
I’m joking, but this novel by Dominican-American writer, Angie Cruz, really is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
It’s the mid-60s, and when 15-year-old Ana Cancion is forced to marry a much older man and move from the Dominican Republic to New York, a question is raised: how much are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of your family?
“The first time Juan Ruiz proposes, I’m eleven years old, skinny and flat-chested.” (p. 1)
What a way to start a novel. I was gripped. From the get-go, this is a story of a woman (or really, a child) who is confused, overwhelmed and frightened by the prospect of being thrown into adulthood so soon. Juan Ruiz effectively snatches Ana’s childhood away, forcing her to grow up knowing that at some point in the very near future, they will be man and wife. However, Ana’s bravery and strength of character is one of the novel’s greatest achievements. Even when her situation feels hopeless, she doesn’t dwell. Instead, she pulls herself together and finds the things that make her happy. A bad bitch, if you ask me.
“I glance over the newspaper, looking for familiar words. Dominican Republic splattered all over it like confetti. Our little country makes the news a lot.”
Not only does Ana face a tumultuous new life as an undocumented immigrant in New York, but tensions are also high back home. Cruz sets the novel at the height of both the Dominican Civil War and the Cold War, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis. At a time when the Dominican Republic was under constant threat from civilian militias as well as intervention from the United States, Ana fears for her family’s safety. Cruz skilfully builds tension both in New York and in Los Guayancanes, allowing the reader to really understand the war in Ana’s mind as the happiness of her family depends solely on her.
Don’t get me wrong, Dominicana is not the happiest novel I’ve read. However, Angie Cruz writes with such vitality that it’s impossible not to be enthralled by her work, even when the subject matter is painful. I also loved the structure of the novel; short, snappy chapters give a great pace to the story.
Dominicana‘s importance cannot not be underestimated. To be honest, it should be a must-read for literally every person in America. Acknowledging the United States as a country built and sustained by immigrants would perhaps spark some much-needed empathy for those who choose not to recognise the part that immigrants have played in making America ‘great’.
Overall, Cruz’s novel is clearly deserving of its place on the Women’s Prize shortlist. I am in love.