cover image Olga Dies Dreaming

Olga Dies Dreaming

Xochitl Gonzalez. Flatiron, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-78617-3

Gonzalez’s edifying debut follows a successful Puerto Rican Brooklynite with family baggage that increasingly disrupts her life. Olga, 40, a wedding planner and frequent guest on morning TV shows, rubs shoulders—and sometimes more—with her wealthy, powerful clients. Her older brother, Prieto, who is secretly gay, has risen through the local political ranks to become a U.S. congressman who represents their Sunset Park neighborhood. The siblings’ beloved papí, once a charismatic activist for Puerto Rican independence, fell into heroin addiction and died when Olga was still a teen, and their mamí remained true to the cause, leaving her children to work with a covert paramilitary group. Olga does not know, but Prieto has been the victim of blackmail for years by a couple of real estate moguls with whom she is acquainted, who’ve made a killing off their Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn. Details about their papí’s life and tragic death, as well as his blackmailers’ sinister intentions in Puerto Rico, add poignancy to Prieto’s troubles, and each sibling faces a crisis of conscience when Hurricane Maria hits and their mamí issues a dubious ultimatum. The expository dialogue often feels stilted, but the characters’ yearning to see the island thrive adds passion and complexity. Gonzalez elevates this family drama with a great deal of insight on the characters’ diaspora and politics. (Jan.)