The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a highly anticipated 2018 new release, that draws you in and doesn’t disappoint.
In New York City, 1969, the Gold siblings have gotten word of a traveling psychic living on Hester street. This woman’s specialty is telling people the day that they will die. The four adolescent siblings sneak out to hear their fortunes.
The resulting prophecies inform the next five decades. Simon goes in search of love on the West Coast in San Francisco in the 1980s. Wild child Klara becomes a Vegas magician who blurs fantasy and reality. The eldest son Daniel, works as an army doctor post 9/11, in an effort to control fate. Bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, testing the boundary of science and immortality.
I was so excited to read this book! I recently watched The Magicians on Syfy, and I was really taken by a moment in Season 1 Episode 10. When the characters find themselves in the library with books that contain their lives. One character finds his book and the librarian actually says not to because:
The people who read their books often discover that they don’t like the main character and are rarely happy with how it ends.
I found this line so poignant, and then I heard about The Immortalists and thought, “let’s steer into this!” I walked away with one of my favorite reads of 2018, and the year hasn’t even begun yet.
Let me start by saying that I honestly thought that we would spend a great portion of this novel in funerals and grief. That’s not what happens at all. This novel is as much about life and the paths we take in it, as it is about a foreboding prophecy.
I’ve been reading a lot of books classified as suspense as of late, but this was a family drama that really gets to the heart of relationships. The plot takes us through five decades and I really love how the writing is grounded in time and makes just enough pop culture and historical references to really place us there with these characters. There are bits of nostalgia when we get to the 2000s that I remember from school! (Pink Motorola Razors anyone?)
Chloe Benjamin also handles the 50-year time span well. When I hear that novels take place over decades I always wonder how the writer is going to handle time, especially since we’re dealing with four different narratives, I thought that we might be referencing the same points over and over. That also didn’t occur.
Each section is beautifully crafted bringing us to a different moment in the siblings’ lives. I never felt like this book was dragging. There was always something happening and there was a purpose to each section. Even when there is a brief reflective section it feels natural and is compelling at that point in the story.
I ended up reading this novel in about three days because I was so drawn in by the characters. Not only are the three siblings unique, three-dimensional characters, but each of their lives is populated with characters just as well formed.