Rebecca Podos, Lambda Literary Award–winning author of Like Water, returns with a lush, dark, and unforgettable story of the power of the past to shape our futures—and the courage it takes to change them.
Ruby Chernyavsky has been told the stories since she was a child: The women in her family, once possessed of great magical abilities to remake lives and stave off death itself, were forced to flee their Russian home for America in order to escape the fearful men who sought to destroy them.
Such has it always been, Ruby’s been told, for powerful women.
Today, these stories seem no more real to Ruby than folktales, except for the smallest bit of power left in their blood: when each of them comes of age, she will have a vision of who she will be when she dies—a destiny as inescapable as it is inevitable.
Ruby is no exception, and neither is her mother, although she ran from her fate years ago, abandoning Ruby and her sisters. It’s a fool’s errand, because they all know the truth: there is no escaping one’s Time.
Until Ruby’s great-aunt Polina passes away, and, for the first time, a Chernyavsky’s death does not match her vision. Suddenly, things Ruby never thought she’d be allowed to hope for—life, love, time—seem possible.
But as she and her cousin Cece begin to dig into the family’s history to find out whether they, too, can change their fates, they learn that nothing comes without a cost. Especially not hope.
Like all the women in the Chernyavsky family, 16-year-old Ruby knows when she'll die, and she knows her death date is immovable. Descended from a long line of female "healers, seers of fate, and sources of great wisdom" who were "hunted for their abilities," Ruby's ancestors fled Russia. In America two generations later, Ruby's sisters use their remaining gifts to help "desperate" women under their great-aunt Polina's guidance. Before Ruby can join them, Polina dies long after the date her vision had predicted. Polina's longevity spurs Ruby, who is destined to die in just over a year, and her cousin Cece, to cheat death. Fate, they learn, can be altered, but not without significant, potentially devastating sacrifice. A resonant contemporary fantasy rooted in the very real tension of familial legacy, identity (two of the novel's central characters are queer and another is trans), and choice, this novel by Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places) leaves much unanswered, and readers will hope for a similarly rich continuation. Ages 14 up.