Review: The Immortalists

I’ll be honest with you, the thing that first drew me to this book is the cover. I mean look at it, it’s stunning. I kept seeing it on my Instagram feed and I wanted it. I marked the date it was going to be released on my calendar and I picked up that day. What I was expecting was a book of fantasy, filled with magical realism, but thats not exactly what I got.

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Synopsis; from Goodreads:

“If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

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.

Their 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, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.”

Chloe Benjamin sets her novel up in four acts. One for each sibling, from the sibling who dies first to the sibling who dies last, each their own period piece as well. Simon, embraces his identity and sets out to find love in San Fransisco’s queer community in the 80’s. Klara, a traveling magician in the 90’s. Daniel, a man who seeks the security of domesticity, in the wake of 9/11 America. And Varya, a female scientist in 2018, who ultimately denies herself any sense of a fulfilled life.

I was fully invested in both Simon and Klara’s stories, finding myself crying as I finished each of their sections. My fiancé, who witnessed one of these moments proceeded to look at me like I was crazy as I wept over my book. However, I was less than interested in Daniel’s story and I was disappointed with Varya. I expected more from Varya. Set to live a long life, she refused to live one at all. It felt unfair to Simon and Klara especially. Both of them robbed of long lives, Simon dying at 20 and Klara dying at 32, both of them tried to live as much as they could while they had the chance.

I gave this book 4 stars. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Like I said, I was hoping for magical realism, more of a fantasy read, it was not that at all though. It was much darker than I was expecting. I don’t mind dark novels, they are actually some of my favorite, I just wasn’t expecting that from this book. The way Benjamin stays above giving a direct answer is what I enjoyed the most. Were the Gold’s always set to die on those specific dates? Did the fortune teller tell the truth about their deaths, or did the Gold’s, believing the date to be unchangeable, hurtle themselves towards their own deaths, each decision they made pushing them towards what would eventually lead to their deaths?

– Hannah

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