*I was given this for free in exchange for an honest review.*
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Genres: Fiction, Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary, LGBTQ+
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Rating: 5 Stars
Wow. Just… wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s touched my heart as much as this one has.
Maybe this is just me and where I’m at in my life right now, but this book struck a chord. The exact thing I needed to read at the exact moment I needed to read it. Isn’t it funny how different things effect different people at different times? It took me a little longer to read this because it put me in a weird, contemplative mood every time I did, but I’m so happy I was able to snag a copy of this.
I’m keeping this summary short. It’s probably better to go into this book not knowing too much.
Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon are all siblings growing up in New York in the 1960’s. As kids they are very close, but each one has a distinct personality all their own. As the oldest, Varya is the responsible one. Next is Daniel, who is tough and practical. Klara is the magical, free spirit of the family. Simon is the shy baby. When Daniel overhears a conversation about a fortune teller, his interest is piqued. Apparently she can tell people the date they’re going to die and Daniel drags the four kids out to visit her.
Each one gets a different date that impacts their life in dramatic ways. As they grow up, the siblings drift a part to live out their own lives, but no matter what, they still have one thing in common—they know the date of their deaths.
I grew so attached to these four kids and fascinated at the idea of knowing the date of our death ahead of time. When I first started this book I thought, no way would I would ever want to know if given the chance. But now I’m not so sure…
The first two sections about Simon and Klara were my absolute favorite. Simon was just… UGH. I could read a whole book on Simon alone, I loved him so much. At the end of his part I wept like a friggin’ baby.
There’s a lot about Simon and Klara that I see in myself. Their creativity, their loving nature, independence, thirst for adventure—we all have that in common. Despite their sad endings (spoiler alert, this entire book is filled with sad endings. FEELS), I found an odd kind of relief in their stories. They actually LIVED, and since my personality is so similar, it was weirdly reassuring to realize I haven’t taken life for granted. Admittedly, I’m not doing anything as amazing as magic or ballet, but I’m not afraid to actually LIVE my life and this book makes me want to push that further. To love more, see the world, take more chances, be fearless.
Varya’s section of the book also deals a lot with OCD and I really appreciated the way it was handled. As someone with no experience with this disorder, I was fascinated by the descriptions of Varya’s idiosyncrasies and it felt like a great insight into what it’s really like.
I will say that I had a hard time with Daniel’s section, and parts of Varya’s. During the first half I felt such a strong personal connection to Simon and Klara, but that was completely gone in the last half. I’m a fairly practical and responsible person, but Daniel and Varya take it to a whole new level and it was hard for me to rationalize some of their actions. This is more of a personal preference thing on my part though, and I loved the writing style so much I didn’t even mind.
« MINOR SPOILERS BELOW »
Also, it was a bummer that the little knocks that we see in Klara’s section weren’t really explored more in later chapters. I really loved the idea of Simon communicating with Klara from the “beyond” and when her part ended, I excitedly kept reading to see how that would play out. How would the practical Daniel handle something so fantastical?? What would Simon and Klara say to him??? But it’s never mentioned again and the author even makes it sound like bipolar disorder could be the cause of her behavior. It was such a sad, hopeless explanation. Realistic sure, but this IS technically a fantasy book. There was so much potential in there and I would have loved seeing the siblings speak to one another using those knocks. The ending was still great, and I loved seeing Varya’s character transformation by the end, but I couldn’t help but be a little sad.
This book probably isn’t for everyone, but I highly recommend it anyway. It gives an emotional, powerful message that I’m not going to forget for the rest of my days.
TALK TO ME
Have you heard of this book? Any thoughts?
Would you want to know the date of your death if you could??
Holler at me in the comments!!