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How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water


How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

Angie Cruz, whose book DOMINICANA was the first “Good Morning America” Book Club pick, returns with HOW NOT TO DROWN IN A GLASS OF WATER, a bite-sized novel that packs a huge punch of reality on gentrification, the Great Recession and the dark side of the American dream.

“My name is Cara Romero, and I came to this country because my husband wanted to kill me.” Cara has worked every single day of her life since arriving in America from the Dominican Republic after the dissolution of her marriage. For years she slaved away in a factory earning subpar wages and even less respect. However, when the Great Recession came for Americans, its service workers were the first to feel the burnings of destruction. Cara hasn't worked in two years, collecting unemployment from “El Obama.”

But now the country has started to rebuild, and Cara has joined a Senior Workforce Program in New York. For 12 sessions she must sit with a government employee --- a Dominican like herself, she is quick to point out --- to discuss her skills, interest and life in order to determine what kind of job she is best suited for next. But whatever the city was expecting when they began this initiative, Cara is not it.

"A quick but impactful novel, HOW NOT TO DROWN IN A GLASS OF WATER cements Angie Cruz as one of the most refreshing, immediate and insightful authors of this, or any, generation."

Bold, brash and unapologetic, Cara tells it --- all of it --- like it is: the reason she left the Dominican Republic (her husband had chopped off the leg of her lover and was eyeing her next), why her son is estranged from her (he was “different,” if you know what she means), and even the truth about the lover she took in her senior years (“He, many times, said to me, You’re like a dream”). Although Cara is unforgiving and unrelenting in her storytelling, it is often the details she neglects to share that paint the most vivid portrait of her.

Through transcripts of each of her 12 sessions, as well as surveys, interviewing guides, job applications and even rent notices, Cara’s story unfolds with vigor and potency and more than a few linguistic hurdles. More than a wife, mother, sister or friend, Cara reveals herself --- almost by accident --- to be the best of what New York City has to offer.

As Cara tells the story of her life thus far, so too does she tell the story of America --- of immigrant communities who live in the hidden corners of the city where seedy landlords turn a blind eye to their rights but rigorously police their abilities to live; white flight to these cheap neighborhoods and the subsequent rising costs of everything from rent to sandwiches; and, finally, the burst of the bubble: the Great Recession. While Cara watches as lawyers are forced to take jobs at fast food restaurants, their tear-stained faces blasted on every news outlet, she and her family and neighbors deal with even more high-stakes crises.

As we’ve seen with the COVID pandemic, though it is often our richest (and whitest) neighbors who are highlighted as losing the most, the worst of any natural or manmade disaster almost always hits the poor, BIPOC and otherwise marginalized communities first. But as Cara makes clear, she and her people are more than accustomed to loss, but perhaps less used to talking about it.

Lucky for us, Cruz writes Cara with one of the strongest, most memorable voices I’ve read in some time. An oversharer, a busybody, a flirt and a caregiver, Cara offers her views on nearly everything --- from the brushing of her niece’s hair to gentle parenting to queer love and even pets. Even in the epistolary documents that punctuate her 12 sessions with the employment guru, Cara’s personality leaps off every page, sits next to you, holds your hand and begins to tell you what it’s really all about.

There’s a striking urgency to Cara, as well as a reassuring and welcoming warmth, but what makes her unforgettable is that she is not the perfect wife, mother or friend. She is a flawed, humble and reflective woman who is ready to put herself to work, whether that means finding a job and severing her dependence on El Obama, repairing her relationships, or ending her family’s legacy of trauma. Cara is no victim or hero, but she is completely, refreshingly her. As Cara would say, “Write this down: Cara Romero is still here, entera.”

A quick but impactful novel, HOW NOT TO DROWN IN A GLASS OF WATER cements Angie Cruz as one of the most refreshing, immediate and insightful authors of this, or any, generation.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 7, 2022

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
by Angie Cruz

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250208467
  • ISBN-13: 9781250208460