Once you read the final line of the book, flip that last page over and close it with satisfying smile on your face, what is usually the first thing that comes into your mind?
Events that took place at the end of the story?
Or maybe certain characters?
Honestly, I always found plot-driven stories much more enjoyable to read than the ones focused primarily on character development. Only when I finally had a pleasure to read Chloe Benjamin’s writing, I discovered the incredible world where the separation of plot-driven vs character-driven ceased to exist!
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.
Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
«…didn’t God make the fortune teller, just as He made Varya’s parents? In synagogue, Varya tries to pray, but God never seems to respond. The rishika, at least, will talk back.»
That was what Varya thought when she and her siblings finally got the courage to visit local fortune teller and found out when they were going to die. And that knowledge, whether they believed in it or not, would stay with them for the rest of their lives.
From that point onwards the book is divided in four parts, each told from the point of view of one of the siblings until the moment of their death and how they chose to build their lives while carrying inside them doubts and fears planted in their by rishika.
Chloe Benjamin knows how to create realistic and memorable characters. And even though the four siblings were the main focus of the book – the side characters and also the events in each part of the story contributed to the development of their personalities and showed us their choices, their mistakes and their dreams.
Raj was one of the side characters that stood out the most to me. He was present throughout Simon’s, Klara’s and Daniel’s parts of the story, and he was a major influence in the way Klara’s life turned to be. Besides, he was the author of one the most memorable quotes:
«Why do you think I don’t talk to you about my problems, real problems? It’s ‘cause you can’t take it. You don’t have space in your head for anyone’s problems but yours.»
Which reminded me a lot of the society in general and how everyone is deeply disturbed by their own problems, without realizing that every other person that they see, meet, speak to, is going through something as well.
Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya – four siblings who chose very different paths and whose stories captured my attention from the very first pages. I cried with them and for them, I disapproved their actions and I mourned their losses; making this the first book on my 2018 Favourites shelf!
Thank you NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam for a free copy of this book. Highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for new titles in General / Literary Fiction genre!