THE PLOT: Dominicana is the story of Ana, a fifteen-year-old country girl from the Dominican Republic. She’s encouraged to marry older Juan so she can move to America and make money for her family. However, once Ana and Juan illegally immigrate to New York, he becomes a temperamental and abusive husband. Ana feels homesick and trapped as she tries to make a life in a foreign country.
RATING: A solid four-star novel, Dominicana, provides a unique and interesting perspective on the immigrant experience. The plot is sparse yet it explores many interesting themes, such as abusive relationships, poverty and racial tension between different immigrant groups.
GOOD BITS: Although told broadly chronologically, I liked how the novel moved between Ana’s life in New York and her upbringing in the Dominican Republic. The author managed to convey a lot about Ana’s personality and life in small snapshots of her past. I believe the novel’s central thread is about relationships (wife/husband, mother/daughter, siblings, friendship and love), which is brought out through the shifting time periods and memories.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I never fully connected with Ana. Despite being narrated in the first-person, present tense, it felt like I was watching Ana from behind a screen. Put simply, I didn’t laugh or cry with her. In the acknowledgements the author, Angie Cruz, mentions that she changed the point of view of the novel. I think this could explain the emotional disconnect.
OVERALL: When I saw this novel shortlisted for the Women’s Prize, I was immediately intrigued. I enjoyed reading it and I’d recommend this book for lovers of atmospheric, character-driven novels. Set against the backdrop of New York in the 60’s, I’d hoped for more political and social details of the city, and didn’t learn much about the Dominican Civil War. However, these themes were alluded to, making it a good foray into my Caribbean Reading List.