Title: Olga Dies Dreaming
Author: Xóchitl Gonzalez
Pub. Date: January 4th 2022
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/LGBTQIA+
Format: Audiobook – Libro.FM & Book Of The Month
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 384 pages/11 hrs 22 min
Characters: 10/10 Atmosphere: 10/10 Writing Style: 10/10 Plot: 6/10 Intrigue: 0/10 Logic/Relationships: 8/10 Enjoyment: 8/10
Rating: 52/7.4 = ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮
Rating system created by The Book Roast
☆☆ “𝐋𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐒𝐜𝐨𝐨𝐛𝐲-𝐃𝐨𝐨 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐤, 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐞’𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐲-𝐆𝐨-𝐋𝐮𝐜𝐤𝐲 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐏𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐫 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐧 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐟𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐄𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫” ☆☆╮
Olga Dies Dreaming is a dual point of view story that toggles between present day and timelines that date back to the early 2000’s. We follow Olga and Pedro aka “Prieto” Acevedo as they navigate their lives and careers while also dealing with an absent mother who makes her presence known through letters and visits from fellow associates. Blanca abandoned her children when they were very young to fight for a liberated Puerto-Rico, never making her whereabouts known since she’s the leader of a small group of liberation radicals known as the “Pañuelos Negros” who are akin to the Black Panthers. Olga has made a career out of wedding planning for the elite in NYC Manhattan while also keeping love and romance at arms length. She’s out to break stereo-types as a Latinx business owner and has turned her back on ALL things related to her mom & issues plaguing Puerto-Rico. Olga’s brother Prieto is a popular Congressman in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood who is torn between being present as a good father for his daughter vs. wanting to protect Puerto-Rico from exploitation. Prieto is flawed there’s no denying that, his intentions started off good as he struggled with finding his role and how to do his part in helping the island. Ultimately I found his actions in politics to be very spineless and damaging to the island.
Whenever I pick up a book by a debut author, I’m looking to see if they’re characters are compelling enough for me to get invested in their back stories. Gonzalez delivered top tier character development and gave each one a distinctive voice, down to the absentee mother whose presence was felt through a series of evocative letters. Both siblings have serious abandonment issues that are in need of healing as it continues to play a role in the decisions they make with their loved ones and in their respective careers. They both seek validation from a mother who abandoned her role in their lives and lives/breathes her cause, something they still can’t accept.
This book won’t be for every reader especially since woven in the text is a lot of history centered around the Puerto-Rican diaspora. There is a heavy emphasis on politics both in gentrifying NYC neighborhoods as well as the relationship between the mainland United States and Puerto-Rico. I can appreciate this since so much went down when Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017 leaving the island in the dark and many of us outsiders with family on the island, feeling helpless and frantic. PREPA and the shady political behaviors by the Governor which we watched in real life get exposed, are mentioned in this book which may shed some light to those who didn’t know much about it. The conclusion wrapped up a bit too quick for my liking for a book that mostly was medium paced with many complex layers to unravel. I listened to the audiobook and gave the performance 5 stars, the narrator knocked it out the park. I felt the audiobook specifically, really brought Blanca’s letters to life and made her passionate pleas to rally up more powerful. There were scenes I found hard and heavy to get through, especially when Prieto visits the towns in Puerto-Rico and speaks to citizens who are exhausted and feeling forgotten without water or light. Overall, it was an impactful memorable read that has placed Xóchitl on my radar for any future releases.
CW: Death of a parent, rape, suicide, cheating, divorce, cancer, serophobia, gentrification, abandonment, drug addiction, homophobic slurs, racism
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