Here’s the premise of this story: in 1969, four siblings between the ages of seven and 14 summon up the courage to take a trip from their New York City apartment to visit a psychic in lower Manhattan. Her ability, she claims, is that she can tell people the date of their death.
The siblings never share the information they get from the woman with each other until their father dies unexpectedly nine years later. At that point, they share their death dates with one another.
I loved the way the story is told. There are four parts, one for each sibling’s story. You learn all about the siblings’ lives and eventually about their death date, and how their supposed knowledge of when they will die affects their relationships, their life choices, and their world views.
The questions that the novel raises would make for a great book group. Is (possibly) knowing when you are going to die a blessing or a curse? Is it better or worse than the uncertainty of not knowing which day will be your last? Does knowledge about when you will die ultimately change the way you live your life? Does your response change depending on how much credence your temperament allows you to give to the predictions of a psychic?
In the words of Simon, the youngest sibling, even dubiously-sourced knowledge of his death date “turns his life a different colour; it makes everything feel urgent, glittering, precious.”
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Review by Lesley Dolinger, Library Director