Hello Readers and HAPPY NEW YEAR! A big wide warm welcome to 2021, may it be a year of health, happiness and gratitude. Things may not be as we want them at the moment, especially here in the UK where the pandemic is at frightening levels and we are understandably locked down, but hope is on the horizon. My positive outlook is that each day we wake up is a new day to be thankful for and a day closer to ‘normality’, whatever that might mean.
This year I don’t have any New Years resolutions, instead I have intentions. My intentions are to read the books I have on my shelf, to see work as something fun and creative and to really enjoy my downtime. I plan to spend lots of time in bubble baths, listening to music, walking and reading books!
In terms of book goals, I intend to read 30 books this year (I hit 31 last year but I was furloughed for 3 months so that will be a challenge!) and also to read more classics. Frankenstein and discussions with all my other lovely book blogger friends on the internet made me really face my fears of reading them (I was worried I’d be bored and uninspired) and now I’ve got a bit of a classic bug! I also aim not to buy any new books. Yeah lets all laugh together :D!
I hope that whatever your intentions for this year, they are filled with positivity and kindness towards yourself. We all need it!
So, onto my book review, which is one I’ve been wanting to share with you for a while and one I’ve been saving up. I wanted to share it in January because a major part of the story begins on New Year’s Day, but also because this is typically a cold month and this front cover is so colourful, I wanted it to brighten up your day.
DOMINICANA BY ANGIE CRUZ
‘Fifteen year old Ana Canción never dreamed of moving to America, the way girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her away to NYC she must 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.’
So I’d not really read a story about immigration in America before and was interested to hear about what our character may feel, notice and experience, especially in New York. I know that my first experience of going through JFK was a bit of a culture shock – we were all literally shouted at to ‘MOVE IT ALONG PEOPLE’, horribly ‘greeted’ and grunted at whilst our passports were stamped and everybody we came in contact with just seemed generally well..pissed off at life and everyone around it. Coming from a country where everyone apologises from sneezing to you walking into them, people being rude to everybody for no good reason was a shock in itself. I have no idea what the Dominican is like as I’ve never been, but I think NYC is a bit of a culture shock to everybody at first! Couple that with being just into your teens and married off to a man you don’t really know. It sounded like a scary story of firsts and new experiences.
The story opens with Ana’s life in the Dominican. She is a typical 15 year old, with a crush on a local boy, focusing on her schooling, interested in how her body is developing and very interested in the some what rebellious goings on of her older sister. She has a mother, father, sisters, brothers, cousins – its a busy household. Her mother is very dominant in her life and her family, her father much more passive. It is in fact her Mother’s wish to give the family a better life in America that puts Ana in the position she finds herself, leaving behind her first crush, her education and her family to be married off to some 30 year old dude when she is only 15. I mean can we all just say ‘WTF’ together? On first glance we could say that the Mother is selfish, out for herself and only interested in improving her own future. Is she? Or is it desperation? There is political turmoil unfolding in the Dominican. From Ana’s eyes its all about money and what Ana can do for the family to her mother, but is that just the view point from the eyes of a disgruntled teenager ripped from her happiness.. or is it one trying to bring safety for the family in an unsettled situation?
Whatever our thoughts, once Ana lands in America, married to Juan Ruiz and entering on a fake passport a whole new set of challenges awaits. Firstly Ana doesn’t speak the language, Juan Ruiz isn’t as rich as they all perhaps thought and she has nothing to do but cook and clean the house. She cannot yet work. There is no love between them, in fact he is in love with someone else completely and he is terribly abusive to her. She has no friends, no one she can trust, her Mother just calls her for money, she is so beyond lonely. She just wants to go home. The only sort-of friend she has is Cesar, her new Husband’s younger cousin…but can he be trusted?
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 4.5/5
From the off I felt that this book was special. I actually decided to read the acknowledgements first to understand if the author had any relationship or connection to the Dominican or this story herself and became aware from doing so that the novel was based upon the life of the author’s mother, which I had in the back of my mind throughout my read.
Although it took a developing friendship for me to become so engrossed in the book I was reading it at any possible moment (which happened around half way through), I throughly enjoyed it. I loved the descriptions of the Dominican Republic and the stark contrast to the new life in NYC. I felt very sorry for our main character Ana, first stripped away from her life, but secondly when she arrives nothing is as it seemed and the city isn’t all that safe. She is trapped, 15, a housewife, in a foreign country, and that just the start of her troubles. For such a young girl I felt for her so much, she had so much growing up to do and fast. What I loved about the story is watching her grow in confidence and developing into adulthood and gaining some independence.
The one element I felt lacking for me was that her visit through passport control was not described in any way, and this was one experience I was excited to read about… I mean its scary enough going through security when you’ve got nothing to hide (and especially NYC).. but on a fake passport? I was really wanting to read about her heart racing and how she looked at the passport control person.. did she smile? Look down? what happened! But nope she just gets collected and whisked off in the back of the car. I’d be interested to hear why that scene wasnt described. But otherwise, I loved watching Ana grow through the pages and I was rather relieved in some ways by the ending.
I would absolutely recommend this book to those who are interested, I would say that this is suitable for teenagers through to any age of adult. There are difficult subjects at play but I’m sure many 13+ year olds would take something from it or understand her pains.
Where to Buy:
The RRP for paperback is £8.99 in the UK- perhaps support an indie if you can.
WASHED DOWN WITH:
I am absolutely loving Pukka Vanilla Chai Tea at the moment. It’s beautifully caffeine free (hurrah – I tend to reserve caffeine for coffee haha!) but it is absolutely just the best winter tea ..in my opinion! It’s got cinnamon, a bit of sweetness to it, it’s literally a hug in a mug. I’m actually a big fan of Pukka Teas, and they’re usually available in most supermarkets and health shops in the UK which helps for availability. This box of 20 retails for £2.99 which isn’t bad for branded herbals.
I hope whatever your plans this weekend (if you’re in lockdown or not in your country), that you fill it with reading, sunshine and relaxation. If you are at work I hope that your weekend goes smoothly and that you find time to unwind in your downtime.
Will you be reading Dominicana or perhaps buying for a loved one? Let me know in the comments.
Until the Next Chapter,