Review: Dominicana

Set in the 1960s, Ana is a 15-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic growing up in poverty, who is forced to marry Juan, a man twice her age, and move to NYC. Her parents, particularly her mom, are blinded by the hope of being able to migrate to the U.S., and Ana seems to be their only way out. In turn, she sacrifices her adolescence for the sake of helping her family. Juan promises to take care of their daughter, and everyone believes him.

Young and naive, Ana thinks her life in NYC will be perfect. But her marriage soon becomes unsettling. He’s unfaithful, violent, and manipulating. Dominicana is a moving and heartbreaking coming-of-age story, discussing topics on immigration, love, and family. It portrays the hardships first-generation immigrants experience before adapting to a new culture. It’s also a story about women standing up for themselves amid a misogynist society.

I did not expect to be so captivated by this book. Ana felt like a little sister I’d wished to guide and advise, give her a hug and tell her things will get better. Because they do, everything always passes.

Overall rating: 4/5

“Don’t forget about us. No lights are too bright to forget where you come from. Remember. Remember.”

Angie Cruz, Dominicana

Review: The Great Alone

  • Title: The Great Alone
  • Author: Kristin Hannah
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Year: 2018
  • Synopsis: Ernt Allbright comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, hopes that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture.

The Great Alone is an impactful story that explores the family dynamics of a dysfunctional and toxic home environment while maintaining small glimpses and moments of hope.

Leni is the protagonist, and we witness her life experiences at different stages, making this a well-rounded coming-of-age story, starting from when she’s 13 up until she’s 24. It was easy to connect with Leni. She’s a quiet girl who loves to read. I enjoyed how her taste in books also transformed over time. The story ends with an article written by her where she reflects on her past, so we can conclude that she’s somewhere around middle age by then.

The detailed descriptions of the scenery will make you fall in love and be in awe of Alaska and its landscapes. It makes you wonder how can a place so beautiful be at the same so cruel.

I found the mother-daughter bond between Leni and Cora heartwarming and admirable. As readers, we can find hundreds of reasons to criticize Cora and call her a bad mother. Of course Cora made awful mistakes by allowing her daughter to live in an environment of domestic violence, but as many domestic violence victims, she believed her husband would change. She refused to see the red flags and was under the gaslighting spell of Ernt. A relationship built out of fear instead of true love. And Leni instead of rebelling against everyone like any ordinary teenager, stays at her mother’s side regardless, being aware that her mother needed help.

Continue reading “Review: The Great Alone”

Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter

Kate Morton La hija del relojero

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a historical fiction novel written by Kate Morton. The story is about a group of young artists who in 1862 spent a few weeks in Birchwood Manor. By the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared. Over a hundrer years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London comes across a leather bag that contains two objects: an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a house and the photograph of a woman. Why does all of this seem so familiar to Elodie? And who is the woman in the photograph?

It’s the fourth novel I read by Kate Morton. They all follow a similar pattern: a mysterious death or disappearance that occurred decades (or centuries) ago will try to be resolved by a character from the present. And there’s always a tinge of romance.

There was a real ghost and some supernatural elements involved in this story. I felt it would’ve been a great opportunity to experiment with some magic realism. But there wasn’t much detail on these elements, which upset me a bit.

Continue reading “Review: The Clockmaker’s Daughter”

Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale is a beautiful, captivating and heartbreaking historical fiction novel. The story focuses on two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne is the oldest and is happily married, and has a daughter. But that picture-perfect life finalizes when the Second World War begins, and her husband is enlisted to battle. Vianne is scared and tries to stay out of trouble — her only objective is to keep her daughter safe and survive. Isabelle, on the other hand, has been a rebel since she was a child, never doing what she’s told. Now that she’s a grown woman, it’s no exception. She’s against the German invasion and wants to contribute one way or another to France’s freedom. 

At the beginning of the war, Vianne is doing okay, until a German soldier decides to stay at her house. In the meantime, Isabelle runs away and gets a new identification, she finally finds the way to fulfill her mission. Throughout the story, we witness the complexity of family dynamics and the uncertainty and fear behind all the decisions the main characters make.

Though it’s not based on real historical figures, Isabelle’s character was inspired by Andrée de Jongh, a Belgian woman who during World War II helped numerous aviators and people escape.

The Nightingale was enthralling since the beginning. I devoured the pages and cried at the end. It’s been so long since a book moved me so much. Kristin Hannah’s writing style was very fluid, and it was easy to empathize with Vianne and Isabelle. Joining them along in their pain, grief, and joy. Two women who showed strength during such adverse times.

Last but not least, The Nightingale will have a film adaptation starring Dakota Fanning and her sister Elle Fanning. It’s expected to be released at the end of this year. I have high expectations for this movie, I cannot wait! 

Overall rating: 5/5

“If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”

– Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale