*Trigger Warning: This novel and book review discusses the following topics which may be triggers for some- death, suicide, disease, mental illness, religion.*
This cover has had me swooning for a while, so I finally snagged my own personal copy because I loved it so much, and because I had heard so many great things about this book. Then, because I have been on the go so much, I decided to listen to the audiobook instead…. haha, for shame, I know. Turns out, the audio was a bit difficult for me to follow along with, since there are many main characters, so I decided to go back to the hardcopy anyways.
I’m glad I did, because it became so much easier to get absorbed in the lives of the Golds. There are four Gold children: Varya, thirteen, Daniel, eleven, Klara, nine, and Simon, seven. Curiosity gets the better of them when they hear about a woman on Hester Street who can predict the day of their deaths, so they venture to the woman to learn their fates. Fast forward a few years, all as teenagers, they finally admit to each other what their death dates were, except for Simon who simply states, “Young.”
Thus leads to the reader following each individual Gold as they decide how to live their lives, based on the theoretical knowledge of knowing the date of their death. Without giving too much away, Simon and Klara decide to move out to San Fransisco, where Simon can feel free to be himself and Klara can chase her dream of becoming a magician. Daniel decides to pursue being a doctor, eventually working as a military examiner. Varya stays in New York to help their ageing mother, Gertie, after the death of her husband, Saul, for a time, before eventually landing in San Francisco as a scientist researching longevity.
It’s intriguing premise of getting to decide how you live your life knowing the exact day you die was certainly enough to spark interest in reading this novel. Benjamin had me hooked as each individual Gold got their section of the novel, and though there were parts that I found a little slow, I still could not stop turning the pages. I wanted to know what would happen just as much as the characters did. I also loved the mix of theology, science, and mysticism, which provided me with some excellent quotes such as:
“In a way, I see religion as a pinnacle of human achievement. In inventing God, we’ve developed the ability to consider our own straits–and we’ve equipped Him with the kind of handy loopholes that enable us to believe we only have so much control. The truth is that most people enjoy a certain level of impotence. But I think we do have control– so much that it scares us to death. As a species, God might be the greatest gift we’ve ever given ourselves. The gift of sanity.”
I find that quote a great explanation for most of the religions out there, a sort of reasoning to describe the commonality between them, and it certainly has given me something to mull over. I also like how it eludes to the overall message of Benjamin’s novel– destiny versus choice. As she diversifies the character’s own methods of coping what they believe to be destiny, they all question whether their choices lead them to where they are as well. I’ll admit- this book got much deeper than I expected it to, but for that reason, I would recommend it to just about anybody.