Spanning 1,000 years, The Elixir of Immortality weaves the Spinoza family saga through European and Jewish history. Acting as the frame story, Ari, the narrator, begins by explaining that he is childless, dying and wants to keep his family history from disappearing with him. Focusing on one son per generation, we follow the path of the secret elixir of immortality as it’s passed from father to son. The touches of magical realism reminded me of 100 Years of Solitude and read like a Forest Gump/Big Fish mash-up. The fictitious history used real conflicts, events, and historical figures as the backdrop for each character’s story and served to both ground and propel the narrative forward. Ari and his great-uncle Fernando’s stories are interjected throughout the narrative, breaking up the monotony of his ancestors’ tales. Genes and the idea of certain desirable and undesirable traits being “in your blood” were repeated themes. This sanguine connection becomes even more apparent as we watch each generation suffer, fail, triumph and fall in love. As the story progresses, we can trace the interweaving threads that connect not just blood, but all people. This wasn’t a Jewish epic, but a story of the importance of family, memory and storytelling. While a long book, don’t be intimidated. It was easy to put down and come back to without feeling lost. When events from earlier in the story are brought up again, a quick synopsis was usually included, and since this book ran to over 700 pages, these recaps never felt redundant. From the Moors in Spain, to World Wars and Trotsky, this book covered a lot of ground and introduced a lot of characters, but without ever feeling overwhelming. It covered all the emotions you’d expect a family epic to cover, heartstrings were tugged and laugh lines were activated. But, the Spanish inquisition? That, I wasn’t expecting.