“He believes in bad choices; he believes in bad luck. And yet the memory of the woman on Hester Street is like a miniscule needle in his stomach, something he swallowed long ago and which floats, undetectable, except for moments when he moves a certain way and feels a prick.”
― Chloe Benjamin,
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
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.
Their 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 seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
What drew us in….If you are reading this book and you are a child of the 70’s and 80’s, then you can relate to Simon’s story on a deeper level. Unless you were living under a rock then, you knew someone like Simon. You feared the drug epidemic and the unknown about the “virus” that was killing millions of homosexuals and drug addicts. No one imagined the devastating affect this lifestyle would have on the future of those to come. Although difficult to listen to or read Simon’s story because of the raw, sexual nature of his experience as a gay boy coming out in the late 70’s, his character becomes real, a part of me, a part of anyone’s family, a brother or a friend. Simon experimented with things like drugs, sharing needles, unprotected sex, and the separation from his family contributed to his promisucous lifestyle. He never told anyone the date that the woman on Hester Street gave him as his death date. Until…. it was too late.
Klara, Simon’s older sister, moved with Simon away from home in NY to San Francisco. Her story takes place in the time period from the 80’s into the early 90’s. Daniel, a doctor in the military post 9/11, and Varya a scientist, current day, all went their separate ways. The one thing that held them together, that bound them forever, was the woman who lived on Hester Street. The old gypsy woman who told fortunes is the one everyone was talking about and who they snuck out one day to see. One day in the summer of 1969, they went to see what the hype was all about. The woman on Hester Street, gave each sibling a different death date. An exact date. A date on which, they would leave the earth. They all thought it was a load of crap. I mean, it was pure coincidence that Simon died on his given death date….right? But what about the rest of the siblings???
Read this book to find out their fates and how their incredible stories wove together. Maybe the lesson learned…Don’t tempt fate. Don’t spend your whole life thinking about a self fulfilling prophecy. Just live your life the way it’s supposed to be lived!
We are giving this book a 4/5. Not our usual genre but an intriguing look into the lives of 4 siblings spanning 3 decades.
About the Author…
Chloe Benjamin is the author of THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS (Atria, 2014), which received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Her second novel, THE IMMORTALISTS, is forthcoming from Putnam. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI.