In “Olga Dies Dreaming” (Flatiron Books), a New York Times bestselling novel from Atlantic writer and native Brooklynite Xochitl Gonzalez, a wildly successful wedding planner can’t seem to find love herself.
Read an excerpt below.
The telltale sign that you are at the wedding of a rich person is the napkins. At the not-rich person’s wedding, should a waiter spill water or wine or a mixed drink of well liquor onto the napkin-covered lap of a guest, the beverage would bead up and roll off the cheap square of commercially laundered polyblend fabric, down the guest’s legs, eventually pooling on the hideous, overly busy patterned carpet designed and chosen specifically to mask these such stains. At the rich person’s wedding, however, the napkins are made of a European linen fine enough for a Tom Wolfe suit, hand-pressed into smooth order and trimmed with a gracious hemstitch border. Should the waiter spill any of the luxury bottled water, vintage wine, or custom-crafted cocktails designed by a mixologist for the occasion, the napkin would, dutifully, absorb any moisture before the incident could irritate a couture-clad guest. Of course, at the rich person’s wedding the waitstaff don’t spill things; they have been separated and elevated from their more slovenly, less-coordinated brethren in a natural selection process of the service industry that judges on appearance, gait, and inherent knowledge of which side to serve from and which to clear. The rich person’s wedding also never features hideous carpet. Not because the venue or locale might not have had one, but because they had the money to cover it over. And not necessarily just with another nicer, more tasteful carpet, but with hardwood flooring, black and white Havana-inspired tiles, or even actual, natural grass. These, though, were the more obvious markers of wealth at a milestone life celebration for the rich person, and while Olga Isabel Acevedo’s job required her to worry about all of these elements and more, the present moment found her primarily concerned with the napkins. Mainly, how she could steal them when the party was over.
“Carlos!” she called out to the authoritative-looking waiter who was leading the caterer’s setup team. “Carlos, let’s talk about the napkins.” He eagerly made his way over, followed by three of his other black-clad compatriots.
The rich person’s wedding not only had better napkins, it had elaborate plans for them as well. They were manipulated into intricately folded shapes and wrapped around lavishly printed menus or adorned with anything ranging from single-stemmed flowers to braided ribbon to—on one occasion, of which Olga was particularly proud—a leather band burnished by a miniature branding iron. (The groom: a fourth-generation cattle rancher.) Olga demonstrated a complex pleating pattern, which was then placed on a diagonal across the display plate, with a place card then set atop that.
“Now Carlos, it’s critical—critical— that the napkins be placed at exactly thirty-degree angles from what would be twelve o’clock on the plate, and even more critical that the place card be set parallel and not perpendicular to that angle. The mother of the bride said she might do some spot checking with her protractor, and after a year of working with this woman, I’d say odds are high that she actually does it.”
Carlos nodded with understanding, almost as if he knew that the mother of the bride had an advanced degree in geometry that had been gathering dust for the past thirty years while she reared her brood and supported the career of her automobile CEO husband, and that she had chosen to channel her intellectual frustrations into the anal-retentive micromanagement of her eldest daughter’s wedding.
Excerpted from “Olga Dies Dreaming.” Copyright © 2022 by Xochitl Gonzalez. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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