Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on January 9, 2018
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What would you do if you knew the date of your death? Would you live life recklessly, knowing your actions would not have consequences because your future was set? Or would you live more cautiously, trying to create order out of chaos because you felt a lack of control? Or, does knowing result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, rather than the fulfillment of a destiny? These are the questions at the heart of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.
Spanning several decades, The Immortalists is a sweeping novel that follows the lives of the Gold siblings – Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon – who are given their death dates after visiting a psychic as children. Although they have no reason to believe that the psychic’s predictions are true, each sibling holds tightly to the information, letting it linger in the background of the choices they make in ways that are both known and unknown to them.
The book is told in four parts, with each part dedicated to each sibling and taking place over several years. There’s Simon and Klara, who head to California to pursue their dreams – Simon to find love and himself and Klara to pursue her a career as a magician. Then there’s Daniel, a military doctor, and Varya, a scientist. Their stories are told in rich detail and the characters are fully developed as both individuals and in relation to each other. It is this latter part that is a crucial piece of the story, for it’s their shared knowledge of their individual fates that influences how they live in the world and with each other.What would you do if you knew the date of your death? Chloe Benjamin explores precisely this question in #TheImmortalists. Click To Tweet
The Immortalists is a wonderful book, but there were two things that left me stumbling over the story line. First, each part of the book takes place during a given time frame, but the reader doesn’t always know where within that time frame they are because it includes both “present” day and memories. There were a few times when this threw me off and I had to get my bearings before moving forward, which disrupted the reading flow. The second was Daniel’s part. With the rest of the book, the writing style and pace matched the character, but Daniel’s felt disconnected and disjointed.
In the end, however, I’m glad I finished the book. Despite its challenges in the second half, the premise of living one’s life with the belief that each character knows their death date was too intriguing to leave behind. It was this shared fate that moved the story forward fairly effortlessly and I was eager to see it to its end.
Recommended for: Readers who enjoy rich character development and pondering the meaning of life.