The Immortalists

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin
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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin


“A captivating family saga.”—The New York Times Book Review

“You won’t be able to put it down.”—The Skimm (Skimm Reads Pick)

“This literary family saga is perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Donna Tartt.”—People Magazine (Book of the Week)

“A sprawling, enchanting family saga.”—Entertainment Weekly (The Must List)

A dazzling family love story reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You from a novelist heralded by Lorrie Moore as a “great new talent.”

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735213180
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/09/2018
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 934
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Chloe Benjamin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Immortalists. Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams, received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. She is a graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.

Read an Excerpt


When Saul dies, Simon is in physics class, drawing concentric circles meant to represent the rings of an electron shell but which to Simon mean nothing at all. With his daydreaming and his dyslexia, he has never been a good student, and the purpose of the electron shell—the orbit of electrons around an atom’s nucleus—escapes him. In this moment, his father bends over in the crosswalk on Broome Street while walking back from lunch. A taxi honks to a stop; Saul sinks to his knees; the blood drains from his heart. His death makes no more sense to Simon than the transfer of electrons from one atom to another: both are there one moment, and gone the next.

Varya drives down from college at Vassar, Daniel from SUNY Binghamton. None of them understand it. Yes, Saul was stressed, but the city’s worst moments—the fiscal crisis, the blackout—are finally behind them. The unions saved the city from bankruptcy, and New York is finally looking up. At the hospital, Varya asks about her father’s last moments. Had he been in any pain? Only briefly, says the nurse. Did he speak? No one can say that he did. This should not surprise his wife and children, who are used to his long silences—and yet Simon feels cheated, robbed of a final memory of his father, who remains as close-lipped in death as he was in life.

Because the next day is Shabbat, the funeral takes place on Sunday. They meet at Congregation Tifereth Israel, the conservative synagogue of which Saul was a member and patron. In the entryway, Rabbi Chaim gives each Gold a pair of scissors for the kriah.

“No. I won’t do it,” says Gertie, who must be walked through each step of the funeral as if through the customs process of a country she never meant to visit. She wears a sheath dress that Saul made for her in 1962: sturdy black cotton, with a dart-fitted waistline, front button closure, and detachable belt. “You can’t make me,” she adds, her eyes darting between Rabbi Chaim and her children, who have all obediently slit their clothes above the heart, and though Rabbi Chaim explains that it is not he who can make her but God, it seems that God can’t, either. In the end, the rabbi gives Gertie a black ribbon to cut, and she takes her seat with wounded victory.

Simon has never liked coming here. As a child, he thought the synagogue was haunted, with its rough, dark stone and dank interior. Worse were the services: the unending silent devotion, the fervent pleas for the restoration of Zion. Now Simon stands before the closed casket, air ­circulating through the slit in his shirt, and realizes he’ll never see his ­father’s face again. He pictures Saul’s distant eyes and demure, almost feminine smile. Rabbi Chaim calls Saul magnanimous, a person of character and fortitude, but to Simon he was a decorous, timid man who skirted conflict and trouble—a man who seemed to do so little out of passion that it was a wonder he had ever married Gertie, for no one would have viewed Simon’s mother, with her ambition and pendulum moods, as a pragmatic choice.

After the service, they follow the pallbearers to Mount Hebron Cemetery, where Saul’s parents were buried. Both girls are weeping—Varya silently, Klara as loudly as her mother—and Daniel seems to be holding himself together out of nothing more than stunned obligation. But Simon finds himself unable to cry, even as the casket is lowered into the earth. He feels only loss, not of the father he knew but of the person that Saul might have been. At dinner, they sat at opposite ends of the table, lost in private thought. The shock came when one of them glanced up, and their eyes caught—an accident, but one that joined their separate worlds like a hinge before someone looked away again.

Now, there is no hinge. Distant though he was, Saul had allowed each Gold to assume their separate roles: he the breadwinner, Gertie the general, Varya the obedient oldest, Simon the unburdened youngest. If their father’s body—his cholesterol lower than Gertie’s, his heart nothing if not steady—had simply stopped, what else could go wrong? Which other laws might warp? Varya hides in her bunk. Daniel is twenty, barely a man, but he greets guests and lays out food, leads prayers in Hebrew. Klara, whose portion of the bedroom is messier than everyone else’s, scrubs the kitchen until her biceps hurt. And Simon takes care of Gertie.

This is not their usual arrangement, for Gertie has always babied Simon more than the others. She wanted, once, to be an intellectual; she lay beside the fountain in Washington Square Park reading Kafka and Nietzsche and Proust. But at nineteen, she met Saul, who had joined his father’s business after high school, and she was pregnant by twenty. Soon Gertie withdrew from New York University, where she was on scholarship, and moved into an apartment mere blocks from Gold’s Tailor and Dressmaking, which Saul would inherit when his parents retired to Kew Gardens Hills.

Shortly after Varya was born—far sooner than Saul thought necessary, and to his embarrassment—Gertie became the receptionist at a law firm. At night, she was still their formidable captain. But in the morning, she put on a dress and applied rouge from a little round box before depositing the children at Mrs. Almendinger’s, after which she exited the building with as much lightness as she had ever been capable. When Simon was born, though, Gertie stayed home for nine months instead of five, which turned into eighteen. She carried him everywhere. When he cried, she did not respond with bullish frustration but nuzzled him and sang, as if nostalgic for an experience she had always resented because she knew she would not repeat it. Shortly after Simon’s birth, while Saul was at work, she went to the doctor’s office and returned with a small glass pill bottle—Enovid, it read—that she kept in the back of her underwear drawer.

“Si-mon!” she calls now, in a rich long blast like a foghorn’s. “Hand me that,” she might say, lying in bed and pointing to a pillow just past her feet. Or, in a low, ominous tone: “I have a sore; I’ve been lying too long in this bed,” and though Simon internally recoils, he examines the thick wedge of her heel. “That isn’t a sore, Ma,” he replies. “It’s a blister.” But by then she has moved on, asking him to bring her the Kaddish, or fish and chocolate from the shiva platter delivered by Rabbi Chaim.

Simon might think Gertie takes pleasure in commanding him, if not for the way she weeps at night—snuffled, so her children don’t hear, though Simon does—or the times he sees her curled fetal on the bed she shared with Saul for two decades, looking like the teenager she was when she met him. She sits shiva with a devoutness Simon did not know she could muster, for Gertie has always believed in superstition more than any God. She spits three times when a funeral goes by, throws salt if the shaker falls over, and never passed a cemetery while pregnant, which required the family to endure constant rerouting between 1956 and 1962. Each Friday, she observes the Sabbath with effortful patience, as if the Sabbath is a guest she can’t wait to get rid of. But this week, she wears no makeup. She avoids jewelry and leather shoes. As if in penitence for the failed kriah, she wears her black sheath day and night, ­ignoring the crust of brisket drippings on one thigh. Because the Golds own no wooden stools, she sits on the floor to recite the Kaddish and even tries to read the book of Job, squinting as she holds the Tanakh up to her face. When she sets it down, she appears wild-eyed and lost, like a child in search of her own parents, and then comes the call—“Si-mon!”—for something tangible: fresh fruit or pound cake, a window opened for air or closed against draft, a blanket, a washcloth, a candle.

When enough guests have assembled for a minyan, Simon helps her into a new dress and house slippers, and she emerges to pray. They’re joined by Saul’s longtime employees: the bookkeepers; the seamstresses; the pattern makers; the salesmen; and Saul’s junior partner, Arthur ­Milavetz, a reedy, beakish man of thirty-two.

As a child, Simon loved to visit his father’s shop. The bookkeepers gave him paper clips to play with, or pieces of scrap fabric, and Simon was proud to be Saul’s son—it was clear, by the reverence with which the staff treated him and by his large windowed office, that he was someone important. He bounced Simon on one knee as he demonstrated how to cut patterns and sew samples. Later, Simon accompanied him to fabric houses, where Saul selected the silks and tweeds that would be fashionable next season, and to Saks Fifth Avenue, whose latest styles he purchased to make knockoffs at the shop. After work, Simon was allowed to stay while the men played hearts or sat in Saul’s office with a box of cigars, debating the teachers’ strike and the sanitation strike, the Suez Canal and the Yom Kippur War.

All the while, something loomed larger, closer, until Simon was forced to see it in all its terrible majesty: his future. Daniel had always planned to be a doctor, which left one son—Simon, impatient and uncomfortable in his skin, let alone in a double-breasted suit. By the time he was a teenager, the women’s clothing bored him and the wools made him itch. He resented the tenuousness of Saul’s attention, which he sensed would not last his departure from the business, if such a thing were even possible. He bristled at Arthur, who was always at his father’s side, and who treated Simon like a helpful little dog. Most of all, he felt something far more confusing: that the shop was Saul’s true home, and that his employees knew him better than his children ever did.

Today, Arthur brings three deli platters and a tray of smoked fish. He bends his long, swanlike neck to kiss Gertie’s cheek.

“What will we do, Arthur?” she asks, her mouth in his coat.

“It’s terrible,” he says. “It’s horrific.”

Tiny droplets of spring rain perch on Arthur’s shoulders and on the lenses of his horn-rimmed glasses, but his eyes are sharp.

“Thank God for you. And for Simon,” Gertie says.

On the last night of shiva, while Gertie sleeps, the siblings take to the attic. They’re worn down, washed out, with bleary, baggy eyes and curdled stomachs. The shock hasn’t faded; Simon cannot imagine it ever fading. Daniel and Varya sit on an orange velvet couch, stuffing spurting from the armrests. Klara takes the patchwork ottoman that once belonged to now-dead Mrs. Blumenstein. She pours bourbon into four chipped teacups. Simon hunches cross-legged on the floor, swirling the amber liquid with his finger.

“So, what’s the plan?” he asks, glancing at Daniel and Varya. “You’re heading out tomorrow?”

Daniel nods. He and Varya will catch early trains back to school. They’ve already said goodbye to Gertie and promised to return in a month, when their exams are finished.

“I can’t take any more time off if I’m going to pass,” Daniel says. “Some of us”—he nudges Klara with his foot—“worry about that sort of thing.”

Klara’s senior year ends in two weeks, but she’s already told her family she won’t walk at graduation. (“All those penguins, shuffling around in unison? It’s not me.”) Varya is studying biology and Daniel hopes to be a military doctor, but Klara doesn’t want to go to college. She wants to do magic.

She’s spent the past nine years under the tutelage of Ilya Hlavacek, an aging vaudevillian and sleight-of-hand magician who is also her boss at Ilya’s Magic & Co. Klara first learned of the shop at the age of nine, when she purchased The Book of Divination from Ilya; now, he is as much a father to her as Saul was. A Czech immigrant who came of age between the World Wars, Ilya—seventy-nine, stooped and arthritic, with a troll’s tuft of white hair—tells fantastic tales of his stage years: one he spent touring the Midwest’s grimiest dime museums, his card table mere feet from rows of pickled human heads; the Pennsylvania circus tent in which he successfully vanished a brown Sicilian donkey named Antonio as one thousand onlookers burst with applause.

But over a century has passed since the Davenport brothers invoked spirits in the salons of the wealthy and John Nevil Maskelyne made a woman levitate in London’s Egyptian Theatre. Today, the luckiest of America’s magicians manage theatrical special effects or work elaborate shows in Las Vegas. Almost all of them are men. When Klara visited Marinka’s, the oldest magic shop in the country, the young man at the register glanced up with disdain before directing her to a bookshelf marked Witchcraft. (“Bastard,” Klara muttered, though she did buy Demonology: The Blood Summonings just to watch him squirm.)

Besides, Klara is drawn less to stage magicians—the bright lights and evening clothes, the wire-rigged levitations—than to those who ­perform in more modest venues, where magic is handed from person to person like a crumpled dollar bill. On Sundays, she watches the street magician Jeff Sheridan at his usual post by the Sir Walter Scott statue in Central Park. But could she really make a living that way? New York is changing, anyway. In her neighborhood, the hippies have been replaced by hard-core kids, the drugs by harder drugs. Puerto Rican gangs hold court at Twelfth and A. Once, Klara was held up by men who probably would have done worse if Daniel had not happened to walk by at exactly that moment.

Varya ashes into an empty teacup. “I can’t believe you’re still going to leave. With Ma like this.”

“That was always the plan, Varya. I was always going to leave.”

“Well, sometimes plans change. Sometimes they have to.”

Klara raises an eyebrow. “So why don’t you change yours?”

“I can’t. I have exams.”

Varya’s hands are rigid, her back straight. She has always been uncompromising, sanctimonious, someone who walks between the lines as if on a balance beam. On her fourteenth birthday, she blew out all but three candles, and Simon, just eight, stood on his tiptoes to do the rest. Varya yelled at him and cried so intensely that even Saul and Gertie were puzzled. She has none of Klara’s beauty, no interest in clothing or makeup. Her one indulgence is her hair. It is waist length and has never been colored or dyed, not because Varya’s natural color—the dusty, light brown of dirt in summer—is in any way remarkable; she simply prefers it as it has always been. Klara dyes her hair a vivid, drugstore red. Whenever she does her roots, the sink looks bloody for days.

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The Immortalists 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Bookaholic_Cindy More than 1 year ago
I don't usually talk about the story much when reviewing since the book blurb covers it. But this book deserves more than just I liked it, why I did, why I disliked it, etc. I saw quite a few DNF and 1 star reviews because of a portion of the book. One section doesn't make a book! It entitles the entire novel. What if you were a child in 1969 and went to a fortune teller who told you the date of your death? How would it affect your life? This is what the four Gold children do and we follow them through the years after this incident. The two youngest, Simon and Kharla, leave for San Francisco before Simon is of legal age to follow their dreams. Warning: if gay sex scenes bother you, remember this is when the Aids epidemic first began and Simon is gay. Don't give up on the book because of that! We follow both of their experiences, Simon as a club dancer and Kharla as a magician. While the two older siblings are back at home with their mother, leading more ordinary lives than their siblings. But are they really just ordinary lives? Once told the date of your death, would you ever forget it? When I first started the book, honestly, I wondered if the whole book was filled with sex scenes. And that is why I would hate for someone to miss out on such an interesting novel because of that. But as the book progressed with each family member, it told each of their stories. I have to say, I truly enjoyed this book and thought the author did an excellent job at character development! You'll grow attached to the Gold family and after my iffy beginning, I grew to love Simon the best. Not everyone will agree with me, but that's why we write these reviews. And this is my opinion. I found this to be a touching story of the lives of 4 children growing up and how different, yet the same we all are. My thanks to the author for starting my year off with such a well written novel. * I was provided an ARC to read from the publisher and NetGalley. It was my decision to read and review this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took me through all life phases of siblinghood and the blessings of family love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not an uplifting read. Overrated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Benjamin's book will fill you with many emotions, both good and bad, but you won't want to put it down because it will remind you that none of us has anything more than today. So you'd better make the most of what life offers you and take advantage of the love of family and friends who count on you to keep moving forward. Nice job, Chloe!
Tracey_L More than 1 year ago
I've been very lucky to have had the opportunity to read three amazing new releases in this first week of 2018. The Immortalists is one of those three and am I ever so glad it was. First off, I have to correct an earlier impression I had - in pictures the cover looked ok, but nothing exceptional. In person it's absolutely gorgeous and I've found myself petting the book, which isn't a thing I do, but there it is! But that's just the outside, and what counts is the story, and it's one hell of a story. What would you do if you knew the date of your death? That's the journey we are taken on with the four Gold siblings, and it's a journey of immense proportions. This is a story that grabs you and doesn't let go, and for me that was just fine because I didn't want it to end. The characters were real and the incidents were believable and I recognized so many places described. It was a wonderful journey that I'm thrilled to have taken. I was provided a copy of this book by Bookish First in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Read in one day.
Anonymous 12 months ago
A different kind of family saga with an ending I didn't see coming.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin THE IMMORTALISTS follows four children throughout their lives. The children visit a woman who tells them their death date. That knowledge compels each of the young people to follow a different pathway through life. A gay boy who is uncertain of his sexuality and self-worth, a girl who may be suffering from a mental illness and infatuated by magic, a girl who is intellectually brilliant but socially inept and a boy who is the family’s “golden child” intent on doing everything perfectly make up this group of siblings. Each one’s story is told in succession with little interaction between the siblings until each one’s death. Each story is compelling on its own. The characters are well developed. Each life story has a clear beginning, middle and end. The place and time each sibling’s story covers is detailed and distinct. An intriguing, well written, and aware novel delineating the difference between belief and science, reality and fantasy. The choices each sibling makes will resonate long after you finish reading. 5 of 5 stars
Julie Ringenbach 15 days ago
I didn’t love everything about The Immortalists, but I found it powerful in parts, and especially at the end. After giving it some thought, I’m comfortable with a 4 star rating. The book focuses on four siblings. At the beginning, as children and young teens growing up in Manhattan, they visit a fortune teller who tells them separately and secretly the date they will each die. The rest of the book is broken into four parts, each part focusing on one sibling. It’s not so much about whether the prediction is true or not, but about how the prediction affects how they live their lives. In a way, it’s a concept book. How would you live your life if there was a chance you knew the date of your death? But there’s a lot more to the tale Benjamin weaves. These are complex troubled characters - affected by their time in history, their family background and their ties with each other. At times, I found that Benjamin pushed the internal and interpersonal drama a bit too far, but I still wanted to keep reading. And I’m glad I did because the end is perfect. Some reviewers seem to be turned off by early graphic sex scenes. It’s a very small part of the book — and in my view a necessary part of the story at that point — so it shouldn’t deter anyone from reading further. (As an addendum, I should add that toward the end there are a few scenes that may be disturbing to people who have trouble reading about animals being mistreated -- they're not exploitative, but they may be hard to read.)
Anonymous 3 months ago
I am very glad that I read this book! It was extremely thought provoking. The character & plot development was excellent. I loved the historical throwback as well.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Like how the story tells about each sibling but that it all comes back together at the end. Wasn’t thrilled with the ending tho.
Anonymous 5 months ago
There's only one word that describe The Immortalists best: human. Humanity—and all the painful, awful, horrible, wonderful, sympathetic, unpredictable, unforgivable things that go with it—is the very heartbeat of this book. It's a literary family saga that stretches over five decades, and while it is utterly contemporary, the lyrical sentences and tender (sometimes brutal) emotions read like a magical realism slash thriller. The four Gold siblings learn the days they will die from a psychic—her words continue to haunt each of them over the years, with each quarter of the book advancing the timeline just that little bit further. We see the siblings fight against what they believe to be fate, and we see them hurtle towards it, sometimes of their own making. It leaves the tenuous question in my mind: do any of us really have control over our fate? Even as the siblings grow up and grow apart, the visceral pain they feel about the loss of the others is palpable. Even when they don't talk, even when their bond seems weakest, the love the characters have for each other shines through. The title is derived from Klara (one of my favorite POV characters!) and her husband's magic act, and is very apt. Though by the end of the novel only one Gold sibling is left standing, the book and its beautifully flawed characters have certainly achieved immortality with me. It's a story I won't soon forget. This isn't a book about characters counting down to their death date. On a simplistic level, it's painful and cruel to read about characters knocked over like dominoes. But I haven't read something this unapologetically human in a long time. At its heart, the novel is an empathic read on what it truly means to be family, and above all, what it means to live.
LeslieLindsay 6 months ago
A dazzling family saga that is both vintage and timely and so much more than you might think I absolutely LOVED this book! I'll admit to having a few reservations about it--here's why: 1) It's so hyped up. It's on a lot of lists and I see it in the pages of women's magazines. Is it *really* as good as they say?! (YES, yes, a THOUSAND times yes!) 2) Is it about teenagers? That was my first inclination--teens in the late 1960s. And I didn't want to read a book about teenagers written for adults. It's *not* that at all. Yes, they are siblings when they visit the fortune teller, but that's a very short piece of the book (the prologue) and then--poof--everyone is living a very adult life (even if the youngest two are 16 and 20 when the story picks up). 3) And the ratings...they were just 'meh.' I'd give it 6-stars if I could. Seriously. It's THAT GOOD. Why did I love it: There's so much more to the fact that the four Gold children visit a fortune teller when they're kids (I think the oldest was 13 and the youngest 7) and receive their predicted date of death from 'the woman.' This is a gorgeously written family saga delving into the lives of all these characters (who quickly become adults), their mother, her struggles with being a widow, and so much more. THE IMMORTALISTS is almost like several novellas hinged together by one common thread: life. The first two 'novellas,' is that of of Klara and Simon, the two youngest Gold children who find themselves in San Francisco in the late-1970s/early 1980s. They have dreams and desires that cannot fulfill in NYC. There were a few instances of Simon's love life I found difficult to read, but it all goes along with the time period and mirrors his character. And Klara's story dovetails and then splits with Simon's and we get a glimpse into her world of magic, marriage, young motherhood, Vegas. And them we get to know the second-oldest Gold child--Daniel, an army doctor, husband and his quest to learn more about 'the woman,' to reconnect with his niece and her father, and make sense of some of the things that have been going on with his siblings. There's Gertie (the mother) and Varya, the scientist and her research with monkeys and longevity. I could go on and on about ALL of these characters and how each story was deliciously captivating. Every character was fully formed and distinctive; Benjamin's language and prose absolutely glittering. I found THE IMMORTALISTS to be oh-so riveting and would even consider re-reading as I am sure there are lovely passages and metaphors and descriptions I missed. A great pick for your book club as there is so much to discuss about free-will versus fate, and other controversial topics. I found the writing style similar to that of Caroline Leavitt meets J. Courtney Sullivan meets Anna Quinn meets Anita Shreve.
Anonymous 7 months ago
A bit contrived, but it did show the power of self-fulfilling prophecies. Ending was a bit abrupt.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This book was so good. The relationship the children have and how it changes after they meet the old woman, it's such a change. And knowing when you will die is not always good and not always bad. Great story.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I liked the siblings & the style of writing, but after reading the stories of two of them and part of the third, I told myself that I should stop -- too depressing. I encourage the author to continue writing (she is talented) but to provide more hope interwoven with the sadness -- or even a whole lot of happiness if it can be worked into the tale. Sadness for its own sake is off-putting.
GirlWithNoSelfie 8 months ago
The Immortalists follows the lives of the four Gold children after their visit to a fortune teller on Hester Street in 1969. One by one, they are told the date they will die and find themselves unable to break free of this knowledge which in turn shapes their lives over the following five decades. Simon runs away to San Francisco with his sister Klara in the late 1970’s. He finally has the chance to pursue his sexual pleasures, and ends up becomes a dancer in a nightclub and trains with a ballet troupe. Klara continues to practice magic and trains to perform difficult acrobatics and illusions for her show “The Immortalists”. Daniel becomes a military doctor who eventually becomes obsessed with finding the fortune teller they met as children back in New York. Varya is a scientist and researcher who studies longevity in monkeys, has OCD, and worries about everything. Will they all die on the date they were told because it is their destiny, or because the prediction draws them into an altered pattern of life choices? The Immortalists is extremely thought provoking because it makes you wonder if the knowledge of our mortality make us truly live our life to the fullest or does it makes us fearful, guilty, and seek to outwit death? Is it destiny or choice, reality or illusion? This is a story of family, loss, secrets, regrets, sibling relationships, death and above all else, about life.
laurensboookshelf 9 months ago
I got an arc of this book from arcs for trade on Twitter back in December and recently read it and really enjoyed it. First things first, I was surprised when I started reading and discovered that this book was about a Jewish family. It wasn't in the description nor had anybody I had talked to said anything about that. I thought that it was really refreshing and interesting to read about a Jewish family because I've never read from that perspective before, which surprises me as I write this. I think what I really enjoyed about this book was seeing the psychological impact that knowing their futures put on the characters. The aspect of knowing their futures and what it did to them really made me think. It really forced me to consider deep philosophical questions about life and death and everything in between. It was overall really good. The only thing that docked a point for me was that at some points I had trouble with the plausibility of some events that occurred in the story but other than that I enjoyed it a lot!
Bookish_Kat 9 months ago
This was quite an interesting story! It begins with the four Gold children in New York in the summer of 1969. The children hear of a traveling psychic who is said to be set up in their neighborhood, who can tell anyone the date when they will die. No surprise, the Golds seek out the psychic and learn the supposed dates of their deaths. After that intro, the book jumps forward several years and we learn about the lives and deaths of the Gold children over several decades. First we hear from wild child Simon, the youngest, who becomes a dancer in San Francisco. The next chunk of years are told by Clara, the dreamer who wants to be a magician. The third portion is told by Daniel, the second oldest, who became a military doctor. Lastly, is Varya, the eldest child, who becomes a scientist interested in finding the key to long life. It's very interesting to see how the psychic's prophecies affect the Gold's as they grow and mature. It was also intriguing to see the family dynamic not just with the Gold siblings, but with their mother as well. And it was quite affecting to see how the deaths of their siblings impacted the other Gold children. This really was a very interesting story. I think the synopsis is a little misleading. It makes it sound like the book is more about magical realism than it really is... There isn't much magic in the book at all (the psychic being able to tell the dates of death and possibly Clara having a little bit of real magic), but it's more about the characters journeys and relationships.
JRoseB 9 months ago
The Immortalists truly had an interesting premise. That being said, the execution wasn't quite a clean as it could have been. I feel as though the author spent too much time on unimportant aspects and not enough on the predictable plot. Despite this, each story about each character is indeed rather interesting, and that was what kept me reading this book and ready to learn more. I just wish that Benjamin had focused a bit more on the substance of her book. There is a very poetic quality to this book that makes it a fascinating read whether or not the book itself is good, which is where I had some issues. I found that the characters weren't exceptionally interesting or made me want to learn more about them. Overall, I would recommend this to someone looking for literary fiction with an interesting premise.
jojosmodernlife 10 months ago
It's a question that many have been asked: If you could be told the exact date you will die, would you want to know? The 4 Gold siblings came across a fortune teller who offered this information right around a time where each of them discovered the fragility of life. Little did they know that finding out when they will die would affect the rest of their lives. Told in four parts, one part focusing on the life of each sibling, The Immortalists goes deep into the choices we make and their lasting effects. DNF at 28%: Getting through Simon's story took substantial effort and deflated any hope I had of finishing the rest of the book. It was fairly easy to tell the tone and style just through the first story alone. Dark and jagged. It is not for the optimistic, to say the least. Furthermore, it felt jagged in the sense that it feels like it was written with random ideas thrown in and then patched together instead of a smooth plot line. For example, Simon and his very serious boyfriend will be having a serious conversation and then, mid-conversation, Simon has his hands down his boyfriend's pants. His boyfriend is even annoyed by this, as I was as the reader, as it seemed out of place and it happens often. It feels like the author wasn't sure how the characters should handle conflict so she randomly threw in sexual moments that seem out of place. It basically lacked intimacy and fluidity. Along with that is that the story is so choppy that it is hard to feel connected to any of the characters. It felt like the author had a bunch of ideas that she came up with and threw them all in rather than catering the plot to the one or two great ideas. For example: Simon is the oldest, most responsible, supposed to take over the family business, yet runs off to San Francisco, becomes a dancer for a club named Purple (oooooooh what if we have the dancers paint themselves Purple to realllly blend it together?), yet also becomes a polished ballet dancer during the day with his miraculous talent that he only recently started training yet learns quickly and gets a part onstage. For all of these reasons, I had to put the book down after Simon’s story and move on. I would not recommend this book, clearly. However, I would especially not recommend this book for those readers who may be offended or triggered by explicitly graphic sexual scenarios, foul language, broken families, grief, fortune-telling, death, STDs, runaway teens, or infidelity. Please note: an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided through Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.
meigan 10 months ago
“If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” Personally, I probably wouldn’t, having developed an obsessive fixation on said date and letting that fixation permeate every waking day and every waking thought. My life would end the day I learned of the date because there certainly wouldn’t be any “real” living after that point in time. Such an interesting premise for sure and one I’ll (hopefully) never have to explore, but the same can’t be said for the Gold siblings in The Immortalists. In the summer of 1969, the four Gold siblings - Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon - learn of a rishika, a woman with the power to tell someone their exact date of death. Whether or not her predictions are accurate, the moment that each sibling learns of the dreaded date is something that will change them forever. While some of them don’t put much salt in the old woman’s power, it’s definitely something that sticks with them long after they leave her apartment and childhood, following them into adulthood and invisibly and unconsciously shaping their thoughts and actions. Whether or not it’s something they “believe” in, that moment with the old woman was a critical moment in the lives of these four siblings, and definitely one that they can’t erase. With The Immortalists, Benjamin takes something that we all think of from time to time, something that’s inevitable for us all, and plunks it dead center in this story. While the Golds grow and change and move on, death and thoughts of death are always there in the background, subtly letting itself be known. With each character, it was interesting to see what they did with the information learned so long ago and the psychological changes that happen when the dates loom closer. Impulsivity. Recklessness. Extreme caution. An excess of pragmatism. Of course, some of these were already traits of each siblings’ personality, and perhaps having an expiration date and knowing that date made each trait just a little stronger and a bit more like an invisible hand. Bottom line - The Immortalists was such an interesting and thought-provoking tale of siblings and life and how perhaps some things are better left unknown. Highly recommended, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for future works by this author.
g69 More than 1 year ago
This book is a gem.
DKnight15 More than 1 year ago
I am in love with Chloe Benjamin’s writing. I plan to buy her other book The Anatomy of Dreams as soon as possible. I hope to read many more of her books in the future. I really hope she continues writing. I really believe this book should be a Pulitzer winner. Oh my goodness, what a concept, to know the date of your death. And then for it to come true for 3 of the 4 siblings. I loved the Golds. I was saddened when each of them passed away. I loved how the sections were broken down by sibling yet still tied the story and family together. At first I was not sure about Varya’s section but in the end she won me over. My favorite sibling was Klara, though. My next favorite character was Ruby. This book was so amazing, the plot, the character development, the spanning of time. I can tell Benjamin really did her research. Thanks Bookish First for introducing me to Benjamin and for sending me a copy in exchange for my review
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this book has a lovely cover, I did not like the story at all. This is about the Gold children, there are 4 of them. Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon, Daniel over hears a couple of older boys talking about some lady who can tell you the exact day you will die. So the 4 children find an address an go there with their allowances to pay the lady. The children go in one at a time to get their supposed individual death day. The book is written per child's life after Saul, the father dies starting with Simon. I thought this would be an interesting concept for a book, but after these kids grow up, they seem to do everything they can to make sure the old was right! The 4 main characters are self absorbed and selfish. I couldn't connect with any of the main characters at all. The only character I even half liked was Ruby and that wasn't until towards the end of the book. This book was one that I was so excited to read, but then extremely disappointed.