Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming (2022) by Xochitl Gonzalez is an engaging and darkly funny novel that deals with gentrification in Brooklyn, the aftermath of colonialism and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, living up to parental expectations, whether they are unreasonable or not, all with the background of a sweet romance.

Olga and her brother Prieto are the center of the novel–Olga is a high-end wedding planner, Ivy-educated but drifting in that she doesn’t know if she wants to continue in the business, even though she’s making tons of money off of her wealthy clients. Prieto is the wunderkind US Representative of their home district, divorced father to a tween, living in their grandmother’s house he and Olga grew up in, and a closeted gay man. They haven’t seen their mother in years; rumor is that she’s back on the island being a revolutionary. Their father died years ago, of AIDS contracted from his drug addictions. So Olga and Prieto only have each other.

Until Olga meets Matteo, and is able to drop the act she puts on for her clients, when he’s honest with her about his own struggles with hoarding. Prieto struggles not only with coming out, but with some questionable votes he’s made, both on the City Council and in the House, and finally gets to see his mother despite her disappointment in him.

I really enjoyed it, but there are some tough topics such as HIV/AIDS, and sexual assault. Gonzalez puts faces to the people affected by corporate greed and corruption and makes the biggest hero of the book someone who buys properties just because he doesn’t want the places he loves to change.

I loved it! The narrators brought Olga and Prieto and their family to life, and I loved how Gonzalez wrote Olga’s struggles to be able to trust Matteo because of her family history, but Matteo understood her and stuck things out.

I don’t recall any anti-fat bias in the book; and there was some mild body-positivity, as Olga was described as having an hourglass figure. Overall, I’d say it was weight-neutral.

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