The Immortalists

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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.

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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Rating: 4/5

“They began together: before any of them were people, they were eggs, four out of their mother’s millions. Astonishing, that they could diverge so dramatically in their temperaments, their fatal flaws — like strangers caught for seconds in the same elevator.” 

I read this book because it was the Girls’ Night In January book club selection, and I was not disappointed. This is the perfect book for a book club — there’s a ton to digest, to ruminate about, to discuss. Themes of siblinghood, death, destiny, magic, and love.

The book opens on four siblings: Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon. They go visit a gypsy woman who tells them each the day they’ll die. The following four sections of the book follow each of them, in reverse order of age (Simon, then Klara, then Daniel, then Varya) as we wait to see if and how that prophecy will come true.

The resulting story is poignant and really makes you wonder whether these events are destined, or whether by knowing about them the siblings bring them about. But it’s a little too perfect to be entirely in their hands. I don’t know — I can’t wait to discuss.

The characters were beautiful and rich, and I appreciated the in-depth look we got into each of them, one by one. I think Simon was my favorite. But truly, this book moved along well and made me think, and I definitely recommend.

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