Dominicana

Author: Angie Cruz

Published: September 3, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick

Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love

My Rating: 4 star

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My Thoughts:

This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.

I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.

1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.

2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂

3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.

4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!

5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.

6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.

At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.

Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Manhattan Beach

Author: Jennifer Egan

Published: October 3, 2017

Publisher: Scribner

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Historical Fiction, History, New York City, Female lead, WWII

My Rating: 3.5 stars

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

My Thoughts:

This book had been on my radar since it got longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and then my wife read it and fell in love (she and I read very, VERY different types of books, so this made me put my guard up a bit if I’m being honest lol), but then it was chosen as our city-wide read and I immediately put it onto the reserve list at the library. I should preface this review by saying that Historical Fiction is not something I ever gravitate to. I’m more of a Contemporary Fiction type of person, but I was fully prepared to look outside of my wheelhouse on this one and I’m glad I did. I was excited and although I had heard mixed reviews (either totally raving reviews or “nope” review, it seemed like there was no in-between), I was determined to come to my own conclusions. First, I absolutely loved Anna’s story line and found myself frantically reading though the various other plots in order to get back to Anna’s. It gave me that Rosie the Riveter feeling and I was engrossed. I wanted to don my checkered scarf and blue shirt and join the resistance. I’m always in for a strong, female lead taking on non-traditional roles, and this one sucked me in. And her relationship with her disabled sister brought tears to my eyes more than once. I also loved the research that went into this novel. As a reader, I could tell it was immense and I appreciated it, even though at times, it seemed to bog down the plot rhythm a bit. After reading this, I now completely understand the draw people have to historical fiction. It’s learning…but with a made up, but could be true plot 😉 But in all seriousness, Egan did her research and her descriptions and story were so much stronger for that! With that said, the other plot lines and characters fell a bit short for me and I found myself saying, “Wait…who are we talking about here” more than once. And the mobster/crime boss storyline, I wasn’t invested in at all and it didn’t seem to be as well developed as I would have liked. It was a bit of a challenge for me to see how some of the other characters related to each other…but I didn’t even mind because I just wanted to see what else Anna was up to.

This is a solid, well-researched novel that pulled me in, and at times, left me wanting more. Not more research, not more characters, not more words, but maybe a little less historical fiction and author-researched plot points, and just more fiction. Have you read it? Let me know what you thought!

bookishfolk…read instead.