A great story-line, a fresh and original idea: a great novel. Have you ever thought about the day of your death? Have you considered the consequences, how that little piece of information could influence the rest of your life?
In the year of 1969, four siblings are told by a fortune-teller the exact date of their demise. In time, the brothers Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya follow their own lives, considering their choices, their actions and choosing the opposite in desperate attempt to avoid fate. But can you really or everything is already laid down for you?
This debut novel is everything I could want in a novel. It’s original, attention-grabbing and it makes the reader question what exactly is fate and it exists or not.
The plot is brilliant; it’s well-developed and beautifully told. The novel is divided into sections: the lives of Simon and Klara; and those of Varya and Daniel, which leaves enough space to get to know them individually throughout the novel. It does make you think and question if we truly have a hand in our fate if we know when we’re going to die what and how we would our lives. One of the first lessons of this novel for me: some things aren’t meant to be known.
The style of writing is melodically beautiful; Benjamin is a great storyteller. For me, it’s a very important factor to grab my attention right from the beginning of a book and Benjamin makes it seem effortless. The details of the characters and their lives are revealed slowly, in a very subtle way, involving way.
The characters are complex and have a great depth to them. The sections of the novel were well thought and the reader gets to see the two sides of the coin: the siblings that moved away and take the foreknowledge seriously and the other two that stay with their family and take a more grounded approach to life, trying not to give the foreknowledge a lot of thought. Even though there are four siblings, I really enjoyed reading about the connection between Simon and Klara. They leave together to San Francisco which shows their great connection and their closeness.
As characters, they are all different and all aspire for different paths: Simon dreams of living in a big city where he has the freedom to be himself without the pressure of his parents, and Klara the quiet and obsessed with magic dreams of showing her talents to a big public no matter the cost. Varya and Daniel have a more grounded approach and both take careers dedicated to helping others and researching longevity. As they didn’t have the chance to “escape”, they are envious of the freedom that their siblings have. But in the end, everything comes together perfectly and family wins.
The author did a brilliant job in representing the family and how the foreknowledge influences their choices. Even though at times there are reckless and act without thinking, they are making choices and take chances that they might never have taken without that knowledge. The way they rationalise and the way they consider their options made me consider how would I react or even do in a similar situation if I knew the date of my death.
I recommend this book to all the lovers of fiction that enjoy a new concept, a fresh narrator and a brilliant story.
Thank you NetGalley, the publisher Penguin Group Putnam and the author for allowing me to read and review a digital copy of this book.