Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Title: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons
Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Netgalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley. This is an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I went back and forth so many times during The Immortalists as to whether or not I liked it, but after reading the thing as a whole, I can definitely say that I liked it, even if it took me a bit longer than usual to get into it. This was because I expected some sort of magical realism or realization of the idea of “immortal,” but aside from the fortune-telling, this never comes into play; The Immortalists is an non-magical contemporary that details the journeys of four siblings, each with varying different dreams and personalities. As children, they went to a fortune-teller to know the day that they would die, and it affects them each in different ways, but leads to the same outcome: the day of their foretold death.

This is a story about following your dreams, and the ways our dreams can lead us to a drastically different lifestyle than we ever imagined living. Along the way, it deals with issues like what we owe to our families, the hold that our families have over us, the role of love in our lives, and the lengths we go to to be “successful.”

Overall, I found it to be an interesting novel that weaves the stories of the siblings together rather well, picking up where the previous sibling leaves off. Because of that, I felt some disconnect to the two later stories, because we meet them at such a later point in life. The stories of the first two siblings are much more vibrant because they’re at younger, more transitional periods in their lives when we meet them. I wish the author had at least attempted some coverage of the last two siblings’ earlier days, but oh well.

This wasn’t a terribly uplifting book — there’s a lot of death and sadness, but what I liked about it was how it wove together the relationships between the siblings and how their common link was their determination to fulfill their dreams and their tough journeys to get to where they were. Overall, this book is about life and how we live on in the face of death of others, and how the memories of our loved ones live on inside of us.

The writing is stellar, and while not all of the characters are particularly likeable, they are at least believable and complex. This is something you pick up when you’re in the mood for a bit of a rumination on our existence and what it means. It definitely gives you things to think about and reflect upon. I would recommend this for anyone looking for a more literary read.

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