Olga Dies Dreaming By Xochitl Gonzalez

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Olga Dies Dreaming: A Novel By Xochitl Gonzalez

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Book/Novel Author: Xochitl Gonzalez

Book/Novel Title: Olga Dies Dreaming

 

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New York Times BestsellerMOST ANTICIPATED BOOK of 2022 by TIME, HipLatina, Parade, The Rumpus, Angela Lashbrook, Vogue.com, Goodreads, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Bustle, Kirkus, Book Riot, Popsugar, Barnes & Noble, The Stacks, Russh, Boston Globe, and more! “Don’t underestimate this new novelist. She’s jump-starting the year with a smart romantic comedy that lures us in with laughter and keeps us hooked with a fantastically engaging story.” —The Washington Post A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots—all in the wake of Hurricane MariaIt’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers.Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.Set against the backdrop of New York City in the months surrounding the most devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico’s history, Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming is a story that examines political corruption, familial strife, and the very notion of the American dream—all while asking what it really means to weather a storm.
Perfectly flawed characters seeking acceptance and love must break from the illusion of a mother they’ve created to survive her abandoning them in favor of becoming a revolutionary. Brilliantly written weaving in the complicated history and the colonization of Puerto Rico with current events and the ongoing struggle for survival.
This is a story easy to get caught up in. Its complex with strong characters about a Puerto Rican immigrant family in Brooklyn. Olga is a wedding planner. She’s learned to use the system to be connected to wealthy clients. She’s a tough businesswoman with a heart of gold for her family. I loved the opening where Olga is discussing how the quality of wedding napkins shows how Americans view wealth. She’d like to be the Puerto Rican version of Martha Stewart. Her brother, Prieto, has entered politics and has become a US Congressman. He vows to help Puerto Rican neighborhood, but his hidden homosexuality makes him hostage to people who are more interested in lining their own pockets. Their mother has left them to pursue the independence of Puerto Rico and the siblings were raised by their grandmother. Their father died of AIDS. As the story moves forward, Olga becomes more and more aware that her chasing of the American dream—money and fame, are not as important as her heritage. Coming to a head after the disastrous Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico, Olga and Prieto are brought to the forefront in the humanitarian crisis and find out that their mother’s guerilla warfare against the system and her demand for Puerto Rican freedom make more and more sense as the Trump administration hands contracts, not to the capable, but to cronies who support Trump. Her views on the limitations of capitalism and political corruption are so well illustrated in this rich complex story. Almarie Guerra, Armando Riesco and Ines Del Castillo narrate the audio version and make the story even richer as they bring the characters to life
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Olga Dies Dreaming is a story about family. About the relationships that shape us, hurt us, and that we can’t quite walk away from. The gaps between mother and child and all the inconsistencies we wish away. Our desire to live up to the expectations of our parents can be a curse we can’t quite lift, but Olga Dies Dreaming examines both Olga and Pedro’s attempts. After my initial interest in the family, I enjoyed the character development of Olga. While there’s many different POV’s in Olga Dies Dreaming (including both Olga and Pedro), Olga was my favorite character. I loved how she’s very much in the midst of trying to figure it out. She’s intelligent, clever, and there were pieces of myself I saw in her. How we can be so caught up in chasing what we think we are supposed to want, what will supposedly make us happy. But then we realize that this quest leaves a bruise.
I loved this debut novel. The first chapter drew me in to this wildly dysfunctional family. The main characters are Olga Acevedo (named after a radical female) and her brother Prieto. Their father dies of AIDS picked up through intravenous drug use. Their mother deserts them when Olga is thirteen and her brother seventeen. Prieto changes his plans for college to stay home and help their grandmother take care of Olga. Through the years, the two receive letters from their mother. Due to her clandestine existence in the radical underground, her children never have any real idea of where she is or what she’s doing. Though she is seen only in the epistolary segments of the book, her character comes through loud and clear: she is a radicalized Puertoriqueña fighting against “the man.” In each letter, she urges her children to become what she perceives as their true selves, trying to get them to join her in her fight for Puerto Rican independence. Her disappointment in the lives they establish for themselves is incandescent. This book deals with many issues facing people of color and nonbinary people, ranging from blatant racism to the more subtle, deeply engendered white privilege. I enjoyed watching Olga and Prieto come to terms with being abandoned by a mother who never should have been a mother, their development of their own lives, and how they eventually must abandon their hopes for reconciliation with their mother.
Olga and her brother Pedro are living in NY and are popular and successful. They still ache from their mother’s decision to leave them and be an activist for Puerto Rico. While Olga tries to manage her love life, Pedro is a closeted gay man and a politician, afraid to admit his sexuality for fear of what may happen to his career. Others know, and have pressured him to vote for their projects, or they will expose him. Olga is forced by her mother to ask her former lover for a favor, and this is devastating for her. It aslo affects how she reacts to her new lover and his concern for her. This is a novel about family, about political corruption, and about being true to yourself. It is at times funny and heartbreaking.
Secrets unravel in the lives of a Puerto Rican family living in Brooklyn #onesentencesummary I don’t know why but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this one. I love how the author incorporates certain issues without it reading as too “political”- if that makes any sense? I also just really loved the realness of Olga, Prieto, and family. And of course I am a huge fan of shorter chapters- I feel like it helps me read the book faster. Definitely a top contender for being one of my favorite reads this month for sure

 

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