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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 479

The four main characters, all protagonists of his or her own portion of the novel, are the four Gold siblings: Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon. The plot basically begins when they visit a gypsy/psychic as children and learn the dates of their deaths. Some more minor supporting characters include the psychic who delivers their fateful prophecies and their parents, spouses, and children (Gertie, Raj, Ruby, and Luke, particularly).

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Varya is the oldest child and she is predicted to live the longest. As an adult, Varya seems to lead a solitary, lonely life, bonding mostly with the primate subjects of her scientific studies. She is working to discover strategies for extending human life, which seems somewhat ironic considering that she is the Gold child allotted the longest lifespan. It is later revealed in the novel that Varya had a child with a professor and that she gave the child up for adoption at birth.

Daniel is the second sibling, one who at first seems mature and traditionally successful. Later in his life, as his death date approaches, he has a meltdown and becomes obsessed with finding and prosecuting the gypsy/psychic who gave the Golds the information about their deaths. Daniel blames the psychic for the early deaths of two of his siblings. He ends up dying in the process, after hunting down the psychic and her family once he learns no charges will be pursued against them, and fulfilling his death prophecy.

Klara is the sibling who is interested in magic, the surreal, the supernatural. She eventually becomes a magician along with her spouse Raj. She has a daughter named Ruby who continues the magic shows with Raj after Klara's death, which may or may not be suicide/caused by her magical powers.

Finally, there is Simon, who is the youngest and also who dies first. He is gay and moves to San Francisco as a young man, where he embraces a new lifestyle. He has a significant partner, Robert, but sadly, Simon contracts AIDS and dies very young. At this time, Klara has been living with/near Simon and the two have been very close.

Gertie is the siblings' mother; their father Saul dies when they are all young. The Gold kids have sort of complicated relationships with their mother. The younger siblings, Simon and Klara, are less in touch with their mother for some time, while the older siblings feel they must stay closer to home to care for her.

Finally, we learn late in the novel that Luke, a reporter who has been interviewing Varya about her project, is actually the son she gave up for adoption years earlier.

The novel presents us with four sections, each one focused on one of the Gold siblings, but the novel as a whole indicates how complex and dynamic family relationships are, and how they evolve over time.

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