A psychic on the Lower East Side tells four children the dates they will die. Only time will tell if her predictions are accurate.
“Perhaps nothing would have happened were it not the pit of summer, with a month and a half of humid boredom behind them and a month and a half ahead….[T]his year—the summer of 1969—it seems something is happening to everyone but them.” Varya is 13, Daniel, 11, Klara, 9, and Simon, 7, the day they visit the woman on Hester Street who is said to know the future. She sees each of the siblings alone, telling each the exact date of his or her death; at first, the reader hears only Varya’s, which is far in the future. The next four sections focus on each of the siblings in turn, continuing through 2010. Simon runs off to San Francisco and becomes a dancer at a gay club called Purp; when one of his many sex partners is described as an Australian flight attendant, we, too, can predict his future. Klara, who tags along with Simon to the West Coast, studies magic and eventually takes her act to Las Vegas; she marries her stage partner and has a child. Daniel becomes a doctor in the military; Varya, a scientist doing longevity experiments with primates. Speaking of longevity experiments with primates, the book’s hypothesis about the fortuneteller’s death dates is inexplicably credulous, though suggestions of a self-fulfilling prophecy muddy the waters a bit. In any case, the siblings are an unhappy bunch, saddled not only with this unwelcome knowledge of the future but with alcoholism, depression, OCD, possible bipolar disease, and many regrets; misunderstandings and grudges divide them from each other. Various minor characters—a cop; spouses, lovers, and offspring; the fortuneteller herself—weave through the plot in a contrived way.
Benjamin’s (The Anatomy of Dreams, 2014) premise situates her novel in magical territory, but the spell doesn't quite work.