The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Published by: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: 2018
Genre(s): Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
HB&W Rating: 2
View on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
But this is the problem: was the woman as powerful as she seemed, or did Klara take steps that made the prophecy come true?
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.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
…if there was one tenet of Judaism with which she agreed, it was this: the power of words. They weaseled under door cracks and through keyholes. They hooked into individuals and wormed through generations.
You read the synopsis. Sounds super interesting, right? If you knew the date you were going to die, how would that inform your life choices? And would you die that day because of those life choices, making it a self-fulfilling prophecy, or would you have died that day regardless?
I was intrigued by these questions, and it was interesting seeing how the four different personalities reacted to their respective encounters with the woman.
This family saga is told in turns, first from Varya’s perspective when they are children, before they’ve met the woman. After they meet the woman, the story is passed from one sibling to the next in order of death date. When that sibling dies, the reins of the story are passed to the next sibling marked for death.
We gain insight into the psyche of each sibling as they struggle with the consequences of that fateful meeting. This novel attempts to tackle several big topics meaningful and relevant to our present day conversations. There is a LOT going on in this novel. “Ambitious” is definitely the word for it.
While I admire the author’s aim to shine a light on things that tend to get swept under the rug (like discrimination and mental illness), this novel just wasn’t working for me. I actually didn’t care for the way the story jumped from one sibling to the next. It didn’t feel like a smooth transition to me at all. The siblings were so estranged, that there was little family interaction to allow for a decent transition.
But more importantly, the characters never really jumped off the page for me, there were a lot of predictable plot points that just felt trite and emotionally manipulative, and it just really drug out for me, probably because I didn’t care for the characters. It took me 3 or 4 loans from the library to finish this one. I just didn’t want to pick it up.
In the end, it certainly was ambitious, as advertised, but sadly didn’t live up to the hype.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Were you disappointed, or do you think I’m nuts?
Until next time,
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