It's 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro "Prieto" Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan's power brokers. Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can't seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.
In short: Don’t underestimate this new novelist. She’s jump-starting the year with a smart romantic comedy that lures us in with laughter and keeps us hooked with a fantastically engaging story ... Presumably, Gonzalez is pulling at least some of these funny shenanigans from her own experience: She once worked as a wedding planner herself. But it’s the tremendous verve of her prose that makes these pages crackle ... Gonzalez develops a rich parallel story about Olga’s brother, Prieto ... If this is a novel about toxic family secrets, it’s also a novel about clandestine national schemes. Aside from a collection of winning characters and an ingenious plot, what’s most impressive about Olga Dies Dreaming is the way Gonzalez stretches the seams of the rom-com genre to accommodate her complex analysis of racial politics ... with remarkable dexterity, Olga Dies Dreaming transitions temporarily into a political thriller about the way Washington and powerful business interests conspire to profit from the island’s suffering ... Rarely does a novel, particularly a debut novel, contend so powerfully and so delightfully with such a vast web of personal, cultural, political and even international imperatives.
A multilayered debut about identity, race, the power of elites and the marginalisation of the poor ... [A] damning indictment of a world where the value of linen is prized more highly than compassion ... The author cloaks her polemic in page-turning prose. This deeply satisfying and nuanced novel shines a light on political corruption and the limits of capitalism. It’s also a study of the psychological fallout of poor parenting and a tender exploration of love in its many forms.
Gonzalez is clearly concerned with making sure her readers understand the historical injustices that have befallen Puerto Rico — and their contemporary consequences, which creates a novelistic challenge. How to illuminate a presumably poorly informed (I’m guilty) audience about complex sociopolitical realities without also knocking readers out of what John Gardner called fiction’s 'vivid and continuous dream'? ... Gonzalez’s main strategies are to allow Olga’s mother to edify the reader along with her children through her letters and to have characters speak to each other in blocks of exposition ... These lectures get the job done, but, along with frequent detours into back story, sometimes feel like a frustrating countercurrent to the momentum of the book’s present, ongoing plot ... When the novel turns its attention to storytelling, it is most affecting and most alive.