Guest Post by Alexandra Grabbe.
Olga Dies Dreaming is a tour de force. Xochitl (pronounced So-Cheel) Gonzalez has ticked off all the boxes—Literary, Commercial, Family Saga, LBGTQ, BIPOC. The tight prose moves as efficiently as Spielberg’s West Side Story dancers.
Olga Acevedo, an Ivy League graduate, organizes weddings for the rich and famous, but has not yet found real satisfaction in life. She considers herself an orphan, having been abandoned at age seven by a volatile mother of Puerto Rican ancestry who may or may not have absconded to San Juan. Prieto, Olga’s older brother, is a popular congressman representing their Brooklyn neighborhood. They both receive emotional support from a grandmother, cousins, aunts, and uncles, who gracefully swirl in and out of the narrative like shooting stars. Most of the characters are flawed and flamboyant but that’s part of what makes this novel such a delight. The credibility of the dialogue is rendered through street talk and a splash of Spanish.
Olga Dies Dreaming is set in our very recent past with reference to the damage major hurricanes have inflicted on Puerto Rico and our former president’s shocking indifference after Hurricane Maria. Gonzalez also manages to tackle the currently-controlled AIDS epidemic and the not-so-controlled corruption of some politicians and businessmen, as well as racial inequality in the United States. Olga Dies Dreaming is one heck of a debut novel.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. Flatiron Books, January 2022.
Reviewer bio: Alexandra Grabbe has worked as an innkeeper, a lyricist, and a relocation consultant in Paris. For her most recent essays and stories, visit Alexandragrabbe.com.