Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González

Estimated read time 3 min read

Why I Picked Up This Book

I can’t tell you why I picked up this book. Maybe it was the title—Olga Dies Dreaming—but I suspect it had to do with the author’s name: Xóchitl Gonzalez. I expected the book to be different, and that’s what it turned out to be: different.

Olga: A Fully Fleshed-Out Character

I’ll start with Olga. She is a fully fleshed-out character. Sometimes, you like or dislike a character, which can affect your feelings about the entire book. But Olga is one of those characters who is unapologetically herself.

I can’t say I especially liked or disliked her; even if I leaned one way, it wouldn’t matter because her story and character are perfectly in sync. She ultimately makes sense.

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A Glimpse into Puerto Rican Culture

Another reason why I enjoy stories like this is because they give you an insight into the people they’re about- Olga and her family are Puerto Ricans. This is one reason why I said this book was different.

Before now, I knew little about Puerto Ricans and hadn’t read anything about Puerto Rican characters. Although I’m not an expert now after reading Olga Dies Dreaming, I can definitely tell you that they are not Mexicans. Again, I will refer to the fantastic characterization in this book. Olga isn’t just Puerto Rican; she is an American from Brooklyn, and it shows.

A Well-Balanced Story

Olga Dies Dreaming packs a lot into a few hundred pages, with trauma, sexuality, family, identity, political and racial themes threaded throughout the story. That’s another thing I enjoyed about the book. Not the themes in themselves but how they were woven seamlessly throughout the story without pulling focus from Olga’s personal narrative.

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I’m not against using literature as a bullhorn for describing societal ills, but I’d rather they not distract me from the simple pleasure of getting lost within a story. Olga Dies Dreaming is a perfectly balanced act; I got lost in the story itself while at the same time hearing the other things it was telling me, like how our family makes or breaks us, and how we choose where our loyalties lie.

This book could have been a political diatribe, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was, first and foremost, Olga’s story and not a vessel for a particular political message or agenda.

A Well-Written, Character-Driven Story

This is a story that tells itself. I liked Olga—it is not common to find a female character written in contemporary times which isn’t over the top. I enjoyed learning a little bit about Puerto Ricans. I enjoyed the writing style—it reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s—how it easily flowed and how each of the characters’ voices stood out loud and distinctively.

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Overall Thoughts

I’m giving Olga Dies Dreaming 4 out of 5 stars. I would have gone higher, but the pacing lagged in some places. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys well-written, character-driven fiction.

Nyerhovwo

Meet Nyerhovwo, an avid reader and aspiring polygot. Nyerhovwo spends most of his time reading. He enjoys exploring all genres of fiction except for romance, and is particularly fond of Stephen King and literary fiction. Nyerhovwo is also learning French and loves watching thought-provoking dramas, anime and Korean films.

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