I am loving this mini review thing. I’m posting everything so quickly that I’m now all caught up and have just one more review to go before my review queue is empty. Yeah me!
In this post, I’ll discuss two novels that share some similarities but are very different: The first is a historical fiction novel set in the 1960s about a 15-year-old girl’s immigrant experience as she leaves the comfort of her family in the Dominican Republic to move to New York City with a man twice her age. The second is a YA paranormal, historical fiction novel set in New York City in the 1920s about dreams that threaten the lives of the city’s inhabitants.
Both were good reads I enjoyed.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Historical Fiction; Magical Realism
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. (Goodreads)
I read Angie Cruz’s Soledad back in 2016 and was immediately hooked on the story. It was the same with Dominicana. There’s something about Cruz’s writing and protagonists that grips me as soon as I start the story and keeps me hooked throughout.
Unlike Soledad, Dominicana begins in the Dominican Republic before heading to New York City. Ana is 11 years old when we meet her in the Dominican Republic slowly being courted by Juan, one of the Ruiz brothers who own several businesses in D.R. and New York City. Ana is forced to marry him when she’s 15 and Juan is in his 30s. It’s a decision she battles with but ultimately follows through on for the benefit of her family. Marrying Juan means she gets to live in New York where she’ll be able to work and send money to D.R. for her family and later help them to immigrate the U.S. as well; but nothing goes as she — her family — plans.
Dominicana is a compelling read. I enjoyed seeing how Ana’s character develops throughout the story. She travels to the U.S. basically alone to live with a man who abuses her and does not appreciate her. She’s basically trapped in her living situation — not allowed to work or have her own money or even to venture outside her apartment alone. But slowly Ana pushes against these boundaries and finds her own way to survive, support her family in D.R., and stand up to her husband.
The story takes some turns I did not expect. I was so caught up in the romance between Ana and Cesar that I wanted her to run off with him and was surprised when she did not. I think her not doing so ties to what this story is about — the sacrifices people make to support their family. Just about everyone in this story has sacrificed in some way for their family. Even immigrating to the U.S. is a sacrifice for family. It’s not always a simply desire to live the U.S. that drives people there, but the chance at better opportunities to support one’s family. Ana doesn’t waver from this goal despite all she endures. It made me both sad and proud of her.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
It’s a good read that I recommend. The writing style, however, can be a little off-putting because Cruz doesn’t use quotations and that confused me sometimes.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Paranormal; Historical Fiction
Diviner, book 2
After helping to catch a serial killer and outing herself as a Diviner, Evie O’Neill has made a name for herself — “America’s Sweetheart Seer” — from a radio show she hosts. She seems to be living the life of dreams: hosting grand parties every night and living quite the boozy high life at hotels. Meanwhile, Jericho pines for her, Sam Lloyd is playing at being her fiancé, and Mabel would like to have her friend back.
So does Theta, but she’s more worried about Henry, who’s spending more time in his dreams, where he hopes to find his lost love but instead finds another dreamwalker. Theta meanwhile has a burning problem of her own to solve but is also caught up in a romance with the poet Memphis, who really should pay more attention to his brother Isaiah.
But although the main cast are all separated attending to their own problems, they will have to unite to solve a major one: a sleeping sickness that has gripped New York City trapping people in their dreams. No one knows how it began or how to stop it, but it’s steadily spreading and causing many to blame immigrant communities. Through all this, the man in the stovepipe hat draws closer, biding his time. (Goodreads)
Maybe I’m getting better at this summary thing 😊 maybe not 😦 . Anyway, I buddy-read this with Rachel from Life of a Female Bibliophile. We buddy-read the first book The Diviners and enjoyed it and decided to continue with the second book. Now I’m looking forward to the third.
I enjoyed Lair of Dreams more than the first book, probably because we get less Evie in this. (I’m not a fan of her.) The story mostly focuses on Henry and a new character named Ling, who’s a dreamwalker. I was surprised to find this book to be creepier than the first, but maybe it’s because I think such a sleeping sickness could actually happen (maybe not exactly as it occurs in the book, but it’s totally possible); oh, and all the ghosts. I enjoyed reading about Ling and Henry’s adventures and loved that the cast is becoming more diverse as the story goes along.
The story also appeals to me because Bray doesn’t shy away from calling out and including social issues that were prevalent in the 1920s. We see the rounding up of Asian immigrants to place in camps, eugenics, even the Ku Klux Klan. It’s interesting how she mixes in these issues with paranormal themes the story is centered on. Considering the high spirit of the 1920s and the dismal years that follow due to the Great Depression in the 1930s, I wonder where the story is heading and how it will wrap up and what exactly does the coming of the man in the stovepipe hat signify. I’m so curious about it all.
I wasn’t sure about the series when I completed The Diviners, but Lair of Dreams has sold me on it. I’m hooked and will certainly read the next book.
Totally worth it. Go get yourself a copy.