The Immortalists

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

Overview: 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.

Debbie Weiss (07/07/18): After I read Deanna's review, I figured I would never pick up this book to read. However, a short time later, a young millenial raved about the book --- one of the best stories she ever read. I decided to read the book.

The premise of the story is interesting enough. Four young siblings visit a psychic and they are told the future dates of their deaths. The book is then divided into four sections, each following one sibling in the years and months leading up to their "dates."

The first section goes into graphic detail about Simon's wild life in the San Francisco gay community. I agree with Deanna, that it was way too graphic and will probably make many people uncomfortable.  However, the reader really gets to know Simon. Did he live the wild life because he knew he was going to die young anyway?

The second section describes Klara's life after Simon's death. The third section describes Daniel's life and Klara's death and then the final section describes Varya's life after Daniel's death. You get the idea.

I listened to this book on audible and I definitely liked listening to the story. I was very interested in learning what was going to happen to each of these family members because I felt like I really knew them well, I guess because the author was so detailed about their activities and their stories. The only part I did not like was the mother of this clan. She was a little too much of a stereotypical Jewish mother and this really bothered me. Perhaps this was due to the narrator's interpretation which might have come across differently if I was doing the reading. I believe that this would be a fascinating book for a book club's discussion group.
Rating: ****

Deanna Boe (05/31/18): Rarely have a finished a book that I didn’t like pretty much from the beginning, this was one of them. It started out interestingly enough with four young siblings going to a lady they had heard she could tell their future. Unfortunately, the most disturbing aspects about all of this was the fact she also told them the exact day they would die. The youngest would die at the age of 20, whereas one of the sisters would live to be in her 80’s. The other two fell in between those ages. She did not tell them how they would die, simply the dates they would die. Knowing that date, does it simply plant a seed in their minds and they elect somehow to die on that date?

The story begins with the youngest and his life. He convinces one of his sisters to leave the Northeast and move to San Francisco, California. It is here that he discovers why he has always felt different, he is gay. This is 1980 and for those of you who remember this was when HIV was first raising its ugly head. The book goes into too much detail about bath houses, daisy chains etc. All of this could have been told in a more subtle tone and still conveyed his story and his sad death at the age of twenty. The sister who goes to California with him ends up committing suicide, naturally on the date that had been predicted. Well, you get the idea. This storyline might appeal to you, but it simply wasn’t worth my time. I would be curious to see if others agree or not. .
Rating: *

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