The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Title: The Immortalists, Author: Chloe Benjamin The Immortalists.  Finished 3-21-19, 3.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2018

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.       from Goodreads

Would you want to know the day of your death?  I can see both sides of this argument, but always seem to come back to the same thought.  I wouldn’t want to lose the joy and miracle and possibility of every day by knowing.  We chose not to know the sex of our baby either.  I wonder if there’s a correlation between the two?  Let me know what you think.

Anyway, we’re talking about the book.  So much potential.  Simon, the first sibling story, is by far the best section of the book.  It made the most sense.  He knew he was going to die young, when he had the opportunity to move across the country and embrace his homosexuality, he took it and never looked back.  His story overlapped a bit with Klara’s since they were roomies in San Francisco, so by default, her story also felt genuine.  It was Daniel’s story that derailed a decent novel.  Daniel and Varya both fell prey to too much sensationalism, in my opinion.

I liked it, but did feel like it wasted so much potential, especially the second half of the book.  This feeling was shared by most of my book group and we even had one who didn’t make it through Simon’s story before putting it down.  But hey, at least we had good food and company 🙂


9 thoughts on “The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

  1. Lloyd Russell says:

    If I recall, I gave it a 3/4, which pretty much matches up to your 3.5/5. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that I liked it well enough. The only reason I read it is that I saw her on book tour with Jessica Shattuck, who was promoting The Women in the Castle. I definitely liked Women better (3.5/4).

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve heard a lot about this book and have thought it might be too smart for me. It sounds like it’s thought provoking but with flaws. I don’t think I’d want to know the day of my death but, if I knew someone could really tell me, I think it would be awfully tempting to find out.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      It would be tempting! I’m just not sure I could make the final call to know. I’m wary of things I can’t change my mind on. One of the main reasons why I won’t get a tattoo 🙂

  3. Diane says:

    Stacy, I gave up on this one last year but, my book group picked it for April. I’m 1/2 way though and cringed after Simon’s story when I thought of some of the “senior ladies” in my group LOL
    Can’t wait to discuss this with the group. I am enjoying it more this time around but, can’t say loving it!

    • stacybuckeye says:

      lol! Yes, I should have mentioned the sex! One woman in our group said, I never really wanted to know about gay sex, but now I know 🙂 This was not said in a mean way, but a laughing one. But the one who didn’t make it through? Couldn’t handle all the cock talk. Seriously, I listened to this part on audio and it’s why I switched to the book. Hearing that word so much drove me nuts. Good luck.

      • Diane says:

        I did the same thing – audio and then print combo. I’m not a prude by OMG! I’ll let you know as I’m betting at least 1/2 didn’t finish the book. I’m not done but the after Simon, the rest seems a bit dull.

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