Verdict: Wonderful ode to the bond between siblings.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Date Read: September 1, 2017
Published by PENGUIN GROUP Putnam, January 9, 2018
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
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.
Their 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, hoping to control fate; 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.
In 1969, four siblings visit a mystical woman who tells each one the precise date of their death. This knowledge will define each sibling’s life in various ways, be it because they live their life in spite of the knowledge or because of their knowledge. It is a novel about fate and agency, about finding a place in the world, about family and selfhood, about mistakes and guilt and forgiveness.
This book’s prologue was absolutely bloody brilliant. It had me engaged immediately and I could not stop reading there (I actually read it again when I finished the book – it was that great). Chloe Benjamin had me, hook, line, and sinker. I needed to know what happens to the children and how the knowledge of their death date will influence their lives.
Each section of the book then follows one of the children until the day they die; I especially found the first two sections following Simon and Klara to be brilliant and unputdownable. They move to San Francisco in search of a place for them: Simon is gay and Klara wants to become a stage magician instead of anything serious. Simon’s story broke my heart, from his family’s rejection to its inevitable conclusion; Klara’s story was equally engaging and their relationship was absolutely beautifully executed. The following two sections following Daniel and finally Varya were still great but more difficult as those two were not as easily likable as their younger siblings.
It is fitting that I read most of this book while on holiday with my sister because at its heart this novel is about siblings – and I do love stories about siblings a whole lot. Weirdly enough, I gravitated towards the younger, less responsible siblings for a change (I have talked elsewhere how I am the Bert in most of my relationships). I think this shows how brilliantly the characters were constructed and how real they felt. As such the characters and their believable interactions were the best part about this book.
I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam in exchange for an honest review.