Book Review

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

In New York City, 1969, rumor spreads about a traveling psychic who claims she can foresee the date someone will die.  Four siblings – the Gold children who range in age from 7-13 – pool their resources, visit the woman, and learn what their future holds.  If that isn’t a fantastic hook for a novel, I don’t know what is.

And so the story careens through the decades as one by one, we hear the children’s life stories and follow them as the date of the prophecies comes around. Simon, the youngest, moves to hedonistic San Francisco as the AIDS crisis hits; Klara becomes a magician in Las Vegas, obsessed with thwarting the prediction; Daniel trains as an army doctor, and Varya becomes a scientist studying aging.

Chloe Benjamin has pulled off a hat trick. She tells us early on what is going to happen to these four siblings, yet we can’t tear our eyes away from the page, perhaps hoping against hope that fate will not win and free will can triumph. I heard her speak about this book in 2018 and it has lingered in my mind all this time, its blend of urgency and sensitivity resonating with me. Her prose is gorgeous, the plot fascinating, but it’s the four characters who will win your heart and stay with you.

So what do you think?  If someone could tell you the day of your death, would you want to know?