In Dominicana, the world is in upheaval. At fifteen years old, Ana knows she must marry Juan Ruiz, who is thirty-two, because he will take her to America. New York City is a dream-like place, full of dresses and jewelry, full closets and full bellies. Juan Ruiz is the key to this life for her and her entire family, so she marries him, though he is hairy and fat, and sometimes unkind. In New York City, Ana witnesses the upheaval of the 1960s from her top-floor apartment window in Washington Heights. She sees Malcolm X get shot. She sees Vietnam War demonstrations. She is betrayed and rescued; she sees the worst, and then the best.
When she becomes pregnant, her world shifts again, not just inside of her belly, but in the outside world too. The Dominican Republic itself is in a civil war. Juan leaves the pregnant Ana in New York City, asking his younger brother Cesar to take care of her. Of course, Cesar has his own charms. They both know Juan will kill them should they act on impulse. But love is a temptation whose cost is always greater than anticipated.
This is an engaging novel from the start. The prose is easy to fall into, and the narrator, Ana, is charming in her innocence and child-like binary perspective. As she experiences greater and greater sacrifice, her shades of gray color in, giving her a more forgiving approach to the betrayals she experiences. Her window of New York City becomes our window, and we see the world as it was, knowing what it will become.