Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists is one of my favorite kinds of books: smart but readable, thought-provoking but easy to follow. It tells the story of the four Gold children–scholarly Varya, caretaker Daniel, mystical Klara, and baby Simon–after they visit a fortune teller in their youth who predicts the day they will die. I absolutely whipped through The Immortalists, *dying* to know if the siblings’ fortunes would come true.
From the back cover:
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 struggles to maintain 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.
Both a dazzling love story and 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 restatement to the power of the story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.
The novel is divided up into four parts, one for each sibling, and tells the story of their lives and the lives of their loved ones surrounding their predicted day-of-death. Each of the Gold children has a different view of the fortune teller, and I enjoyed reading their different perspectives. Simon’s fortune caused him to seek out the life he wanted when he might not have done so otherwise; Klara wanted so deeply to believe in her fortune that she forced it into reality; Daniel’s skepticism toward the woman on Hester Street turned out to bite him in the end; and Varya becomes obsessed with sacrificing her quality of life in order to live longer. My favorite sibling was definitely Klara. Her internal struggle, the fight between fantasy and reality, made me think the most but was also the most fun to read.
“The power of words. They weaseled under door crevices and through keyholes. They hooked into individuals and wormed through generations.”
-Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists
Benjamin is a talented storyteller; The Immortalists presents a lot to think about but the plot never feels overwhelming. Though the subject matter proved difficult to read at times–I don’t think death is “easy” to read about for anyone–The Immortalists is still a fun, quick read, equally thrilling and thought-provoking.
Find this book on Goodreads.