Author: Chloe Benjamin
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Pub Date: January 9, 2018
Summary from Publisher:
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.
- From Goodreads
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, as its title suggests is about the Gold family—Jewish adolescent siblings who in their desire to seek out a well-known, gifted fortune teller, also discover in themselves a hidden drive to reach some form of immortality in pursuit of a life not directly impacted by the knowledge of the date of their pre-destined deaths.
The seed of this knowledge, which was planted in these children, what with their hope, faith—and also their fear—in magic, in religion, and in perhaps fate itself—propel each of them on individual journeys that fuel their direction of power from their internal terrain and emotional uncertainty.
There is Simon, whose role was to stay behind to care for his grieving mother is challenged on a whim to make an escape to a different kind of life by the encouragement of his sister, Klara. Together, they leave without a plan and very little money to the flamboyant drama of San Francisco’s gay district where Simon can, in his desire to be true to his sexual identity, find passion in a new, unknown vocation, and an unexpected relationship and love.
Klara, an aspiring magician, learns the secret of her maternal grandmother and takes to unravelling her own giftedness in illusion—not as a trickster—but as a gift bearer to those who need affirmation of hope and other-worldliness in otherwise a benign, harsh existence.
Daniel, the eldest of the siblings, in his pragmatism, becomes untethered by the loss of his position as an army doctor and news of his siblings’ untimely (or rather, timely) deaths as connected with the investigation of a gypsy family whose practice in fortune telling has led to con artist scams and in his personal case (and beliefs)—the death of his siblings.
The last sibling, Varya, whose date of death was determined to be late and so afforded her the longest life of her sister and her two brothers, did not afford her the risk of calm and serenity in living a long life, but rather isolated her in a phobic fear of illness, disease, and misfortune to the extremity of avoiding physical—and emotional—touch.
Together, these siblings stay deeply interconnected with one another through the demise of that first fortune-telling experience as children.
Each death in the family brings about a chain reaction of guilt by survival, deep loss and lack of reconciliation, to further questions about the power of will over fate; the reality of magic and mysticism; and what it really means to live a full and meaningful life as compared to a long duration of one.
The narrative of the novel is true to its complex and long-suffering characters; the tone, that of a subdued, yet passionate melancholy; and the theme, harrowing in its thought-provoking questions of faith, fate, and haunting magic.
Redemptive and sad, it’s a journey readers will care deeply about, and proof of the strength and magnitude of sibling bond and rivalry. It is in its quiet form, a love-and-loss story.
Characters: 4 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 4 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 4.5 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada on behalf of G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing me with a copy of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin in exchange for an honest and timely review.
About the Author:
Chloe Benjamin is the author of THE IMMORTALISTS, a New York Times Bestseller, #1 Indie Next Pick for January 2018, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, #1 Library Reads pick, and Amazon Best Book of the Month.
Her first novel, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS (Atria, 2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.
Her novels have been translated into over twenty-three languages. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI.
- From Goodreads