Fifteen-year-old Ana’s mother sees one path for their family to get to America from the Dominican Republic in 1965: Ana’s marriage to Juan Ruiz. With little English and few skills, Ana is isolated at the mercy of Juan, who is unfaithful and sometimes cruel. When he returns to the Dominican Republic for several months, she begins to dream of a new kind of life for herself, with Juan’s brother Cesar. But she must make a decision when her family’s dreams of joining her become reality. I appreciated Ana’s story and felt her isolation and desperation. I loved the interview with author Angie Cruz at the end, who described how her own mother’s story and New York’s Dominican community inspired her to write this book.
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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.