The story is told in the first person by Ana. Ana’s world is turned completely upside down when she is virtually forced to marry Juan Ruiz and move to America from the Dominican Republic.
When Juan asks Ana to marry him, he is thirty-two, she is fifteen. It is a marriage bereft of love. Both Juan and Ana’s family want something different from the union. Juan is looking to get the land that Ana’s family own, and Ana’s family want to emigrate to America which Juan can deliver.
Anna herself has dreams and aspirations. She wants to study, start her own business, but this is the Dominican Republic and it’s 1965, Anna’s aspirations do not even come close to consideration for her future. Whatever benefits the family, that is the choice that will be chosen. Ana knows this, and selflessly puts her family’s needs before her own.
As soon as they arrive in America Juan is safe to drop his charade and show his true face to Ana. He starts treating her like a possession and starts to use physical violence on Ana. Only slaps, but you can feel an anger within Juan and a potential for so much more.
The title of the book refers to a small ceramic doll in which Ana hides any money she can squirrel away for her family. The doll is a metaphor for Ana herself. It has no face and at times that is just how Ana feels, a faceless puppet being used by husband and family alike.
When Juan is forced to return to the Republic, Ana is looked after by her brother-in-law, Cesar. Life immediately does not seem to be a constant chore anymore, and she begins to see what life with Cesar and not Juan would be like. She begins to fall in love with Cesar.
The narrative is always told by Ana in the first perspective and there are times in the novel where this perspective just does not seem to work and perhaps a perspective change would have worked better, but overall, the writing is solid.
I can appreciate that this novel was inspired by the author’s mother and while I did enjoy this book it never reached any great heights for me, and I found myself wondering if this book would have resonated and had a greater impact with me, if I lived in New York or had been an immigrant moving from the Dominican Republic to America to help improve my family’s life. And yet isn’t that what fiction is supposed to do, transport us to this life that is so different in so many ways from my own. I guess what I am trying to say is that while I did enjoy the book, it never drew me completely into the world of a young immigrant bride in America in the 1960’s. It described it to me, and it was an enjoyable read, but I never felt that wonderful feeling of immersion that a great novel provides.
Angie Cruz was conceived in Dominican Republic and born in 1972 in New York City's Washington Heights. She continued to travel to and from, every summer, until she was sixteen years old. She went to La Guardia High School concentrating on Visual Arts and by default decided to follow a path in Fashion Design at Fashion Institute of Technology. During those four years of college, she worked as a salesperson, manager and then window designer in an upscale Madison Ave. boutique. In 1993, four of her children stories were featured on BET's Story Porch. Soon after, she gave up her fashionista lifestyle to become a full-time college student at SUNY Binghamton where her love affair with literature and history began. She graduated from the NYU, MFA program in 1999. Her passion for literature fueled her desire to be active in community. In 1997, she co-founded WILL: Women In Literature & Letters with Adelina Anthony and Marta Lucia, an organization that produced readings, workshops, and a conference using literature as a tool to build community and transform society. In 2000, WILL was put on hold due to lack of resources and the women's desire to make more time to write. Angie Cruz has contributed shorter works to numerous periodicals including Latina Magazine, Callaloo and New York Times. She has won awards for her writing and/or activist work such as The New York Foundation of The Arts Fellowship, Barbara Deming Award, Yaddo, and The Camargo Fellowship.
There is a great video on abcNEWS with Cruz here - https://app.abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/video/dominicana-author-angie-cruz-talks-inspired-mother-66603669