Four siblings (the Golds) set out one day in search of a mysterious woman who has just moved to town. They are seeking her because they’ve heard she has the ability to predict the exact date you’ll die. When they find her living in an apartment building not unlike their own, they enter one at a time and are each given a date – some dates more upsetting than others.
How would you choose to live your life knowing the exact date of your death? What would you do differently? And does that make it any more of a life worth living?
These are the questions Benjamin addresses throughout the book, checking in with each sibling along the way – Simon, who moves to San Francisco and becomes a dancer; Klara, an aspiring magician; Daniel, an army doctor in a post-9/11 world; and Varya, who has chosen to immerse herself in longevity research, stretching the limits of mortality itself.
This book wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The description made it sound a bit more, well, magical, when it was in fact very much grounded in reality. Frequently throughout the story, Benjamin notes specific historical events taking place around them – men landing on the moon, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, etc. At times, it felt as though she was perhaps trying to do too many things at once – this book was simultaneously raunchy, action-packed, scientific, religious – and there were times when it all seemed a bit too distracting. It takes on different perspectives throughout, shedding light on each individual siblings’ stories. Rather than being tightly woven together, we find they live very separate lives, each starkly different from the next.
And while perhaps this book was trying to be too many things, it did succeed in one department: it was extremely touching. We all know death is coming, but somehow knowing the exact date it will come for us seems to change our perspective on it — that concept is not new. And I wouldn’t say that’s what Benjamin was really writing about. To me this book was more about relationships. It outlined perfectly what it means to be family. Closeness, proximity physically and emotionally, is not always a given. Yet, when it comes to family, there is always something, sometimes illogical, that always draws us together. It’s a bond that can’t be broken. Perhaps the mysterious woman’s predictions concerning the Gold siblings’ deaths was a representation of that bond. When it seemed like nothing kept these siblings together, this one thing always connected them. It was a reminder of that bond.
I do think this is worth the read. It really has everything – romance, intrigue, thrills, and even a touch of magic. But its strengths really lie in the relationships. Give it a go!
My rating: ★★★★