Fiction, Historical, LGBT, literary fiction, race, romance

Book Review: Olga Dies dreaming by Xóchitl González

“You must remember, mijo, even people who were once your sails can become your anchors.”

Despite all the factors against them, Olga and her brother, Pedro ” Prieto” Acevedo made it in New York. Olga is a rich wedding planner for Manhattan’s elite while Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrified latino neighborhood in Brooklyn. On the surface, they’re living the American dream but there is something more going on underneath it all.

Olga may be creating dreams of love for other people but she is unable to fall in love herself until she meets Matteo, who forces her to examine long buried family secrets. 27 years ago, their mother, Blanca left them to advance a militant cause that was suppose to free native people all over the world. But with nothing achieved, she comes barreling back into their lives like she didn’t abandon her children all these years ago.

It took me a long time to pick up this book, because the cover and the blurb do it no favors. I think the blurb is quite accurate but I just didn’t expect it to have so much life and culture and such a strong narration. This book is told through the perspective of both Olga and Prieto and interspaced by the letters their mum writes them through the years. Letters that strictly scolds them for whatever decision that spreads through the grapevine that she disapproves of.

I enjoyed Olga’s narration the best, it’s filled with so much snark and wit while Prieto’s was almost stifling. The secret he’s hiding and the length he has gone to hide it is almost suffocating as he tells us upfront and then we carry it throughout the book. Prieto sets out to become a politician to help Puerto Rico and his Brooklyn neighborhood but along the way, he bites off more than he can chew.

The Acevedo family is so boisterous and filled with so much love and joy. I loved reading about everyone in the family, how they all chip in to help each other out and how they find the spaces they are needed to fill up, whenever anyone is about to be left behind. It reminds me of a big Nigerian family and I could relate so much to it.

While I enjoyed the characters in this book, I felt like the political commentary was not subtle at all. Maybe the author did not intend for it to be subtle but I felt at some point that I was being hit over my head with a hammer by a lot of it, especially on gentrification. I feel like it’s all been said before, and sadly, there wasn’t anything new. Also, this is largely a character driven book, so if you’re not into that, this book is definitely not for you because I feel like you live in the narrators’ heads a lot.

I also would love to read the reviews of actual Puerto Ricans for this book because it deals with a lot of actual law and politics involving Puerto Rico. I did not know that the PROMESA law was a real law signed in 2016 until I googled it. I wonder if actual Puerto Ricans enjoyed the use of this as a plotline especially as the opinions on this law and the way it was enacted afterwards is largely negative even though it was propped up by a lot of famous Puerto Ricans.

Anyway, this is a debut book and I can’t wait to read what else the author has for us in the future. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. Have you guys read this one? Is this a book you have on your TBR list?

Leggy

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