The library is closed Sunday, June 16

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

A Trojan Horse. That's how author Xochitl Gonzalez describes her debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming (2022), a work of contemporary fiction set in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico, primarily in 2017.

As you probably know, said horse, featured in Homer's Iliad, is an ostensible gift that turns out to be a gigantic tool of war, ferrying, as it does, Greek soldiers-in-hiding through the gates of Troy. The soldiers burst from the horse like candy from a piñata , capture the city, and claim epic victory.

Does this narrative recall the plot of Olga Dies Dreaming? Nope. As one reviewer mentioned, the novel's easy, breezy tone reads more like Chick Lit than an ancient work about Greece's mythological past.

The eponymous Olga is a prickly wedding planner for the elite, so busy acquiring success that she ignores its personal costs. Her brother, Pietro, a congressman, also lives a life on the surface, keeping what matters most to him riskily secreted away. Interspersed with their personal narratives, awakenings, and romances is the story of their mother, a political and social revolutionary, who disappeared from their lives when they were kids. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico also figures, along with issues related to the gentrification of Puerto Rico and Brooklyn.

Xochitl Gonzalez has created a Trojan Horse with this wonderful, vividly written novel because it is an accessible and engaging family saga that sheds light on the history of Puerto Rico and its relationship to United States, the unbalanced power dynamic and the legacy of colonialism that we see on the island and on U.S. soil today. Even as I enjoyed the twists and turns of a brother and sister coming to terms their true identities, a side of history that I had never known about was revealed to me. Olga Dies Dreaming left me wanting to learn more.