Flatiron: Macmillan. Sept. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9781250205933. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250205926. F
In mesmerizing prose, Cruz (Let It Rain Coffee; Soledad) captures the heartbreaking coming of age of Ana Cancion. Based on Cruz’s mother’s story, the novel centers on 15-year-old Ana’s transactional marriage to the much-older Juan Ruiz and her immigration to the United States from the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, after dictator Rafael Trujillo’s assassination. It also provides a window into the changing landscape of Harlem during the time period, as our resourceful young heroine must figure out how to survive New York City’s cold winters, her abusive husband, and being thousands of miles away from her family. Flashbacks of her life on the island serve as points of comparison for Ana—the short passages conjure moments of both trauma and bliss. She finds solace (and love) in her brother-in-law’s arms and her eventual pregnancy. It’s these two things, along with learning English, her beloved faceless “Dominicana” doll, and her burgeoning entrepreneurial skills that help her find her voice.
VERDICT This stirring immigration story is Cruz’s breakout book; it should be heralded alongside Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.
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