Title: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Page Count: 346
Publication Date: 2018
Category/Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary Fiction
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.72)
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.0)
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?
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.
The 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; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.
When four siblings head out to see a fortune-teller to find out the dates of their deaths, the way they lived (and potentially died) was altered.
The story follows Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon from the moment their ‘expiration date’ was revealed until the moment they take their last breath. Each of the siblings has a segment dedicated to their life story, beginning with Simon, the youngest of the four, in which the reader is able to become witness to each of their innermost thoughts, fears and greatest desires surrounding how to live out every moment based on the secret date they each carry around. And each one approaches life as different as possibly could be from the next.
The Immortalists is a beautifully written, intriguing and captivating story that takes on some of the most fundamental and complex questions about life and how we live it.
It tackles fate vs destiny vs self-fulfilling prophecies, delves into living brightly while knowing death is looming vs just prolonging life and surviving and examines denying oneself vs denying death.
“Ever heard of Heraclitus?” Varya shakes her head. “Greek philosopher. Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.”
Although it is mostly centered around death, there is a tremendous amount of life and hope flowing through the course of the book. It dares you to love life for what we have and live it to our greatest potential.
“Life isn’t just about defying death,” Raj says, his voice coming through the speakers on either side of the television. “It’s also about defying yourself, about insisting on transformation. As long as you can transform, my friends, you cannot die.”
This story has some magical elements, but overall, it’s a family saga that tests boundaries and wraps around family bonds.
“In Simon’s voice, he heard the siren song of family – how it pulls you despite all sense; how it forces you to discard your convictions, your righteous selfhood, in favor of profound dependence.”
It’s a thought-provoking book with a strong message that begs you to ask yourself so many of these questions, and more.
Fast-paced, heartfelt, deeply moving story full of complex internal and external conflicts, it was hard for me to put this book down and I finished it in the blink of an eye.