Primary Genre(s): Literary Fiction
First Published: 9 Jan 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Page count: 346
My Format: Audiobook
Would I recommend it: Maybe
Commission Link: https://amzn.to/2HsB0OX
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary from Goodreads
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.
The 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 struggles to maintain security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
This book has received a ton of accolades and awards in the past year. I may be in the minority here, but I wasn’t as wowed as others apparently have been with this story.
The book is written in sections, with each section telling the story of one of the Gold children’s lives after they are told their date of death. Here are my pros and cons:
- Sam and Klara’s stories were interesting to me. At least their stories held my interest. Perhaps it was the adventure element or the fact that Klara was a magician that made those sections more enjoyable. They were just nicer to read than other sections (See Con #1 below).
- The story made me ponder if I would want to know my death date if I had the chance to find out. The premise is intriguing and thought-provoking for sure. My answer? Absolutely not. I might be more of a risk taker if I knew the date, but ultimately I think knowing would weigh on my mind so heavily that it would destroy me psychologically.
- Daniel and Varya’s stories were not interesting at all to me. As a matter of fact, they were downright dull. Sadly, their stories were at the end of the book so it made the overall story completely fizzle out for me.
- There is a hint that this story may contain a little magical realism or fantasy, but it really doesn’t. The individual stories end up being mini-biographies of the lives of the Gold children. There really is no more than that.
- I never really connected to any of the characters – even Sam and Klara fell flat for me even though I preferred the sections about their lives. I was quite bored through many parts of the book.
- In general, the entire book was terribly depressing. Seriously, every bit of the book was depressing for me.
This is basically a story about fate versus self-fulfilling prophecy. If you know the exact date of your death, how would you live? Would you live life to the fullest and do crazy, dangerous things for the excitement and the thrill of it knowing you wouldn’t die until a specific date? Would you live quietly and safely, hoping to cheat death? Would you let the knowledge of your death date affect your life in any way? Would any of our actions actually bring about our deaths on that specified date or is it all actually just fate? Would YOU want to know the day of your death? How would you live differently if you did know? This book really made me think about things like this for myself. Sadly, I don’t feel like the book even attempted to offer any answers for these questions, either generally or for the Gold children specifically.
I gave this book 3 stars, but more for what it made me think about than for what I actually read. The big question of “Would you want to know?” and the things the book made me think about were more intriguing to me than actually reading the novel.
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