Chloe Benjamin brings us an emotional novel about a universal question--What if you could find out the date of your death? Would you want to know? Would it change the way you live your life? When Daniel Gold hears the rumor that there's a fortune teller nearby, he convinces his sisters, Varya and Klara to go and find out what their future holds with little brother Simon tagging along. However, this is no ordinary fortune teller, this fortune teller will give you the date of your death. For the Gold children, the answers become complex and yet very simple as they figure out how to live their life with a date that looms over as a blessing or perhaps a burden depending on your views. The Immortalists is a phenomenal story that will draw you into each siblings life and leave you hungry for more.— Jen Steele
On the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1960s, four children meet a fortune teller, who tells them when each of them is going to die. Do I really need to say any more? The four sections of The Immortalists are told by a different sibling, and the story rockets across the country, veering into emergent gay culture, the world of magicians, a military processing station, and an aging research lab. Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya each must confront a life where free will and destiny collide. Don’t worry, you won’t get whiplash from the twists the story takes, but you will likely fall in love with the Gold family and Chloe Benjamin’s novel, a whip-smart and unexpectedly philosophical story of fate, faith, and family.— Daniel Goldin
What would you do if you knew (or thought you knew) the exact date of your death? Would you do whatever you wished, not wanting to waste a moment, or would you live in fear, terrified about what will happen? This is the situation that the Gold children face after they visit a fortune teller in the summer of 1969. They are very young, from 7-year old Simon to 13-year-old Varya. Each one meets separately with the Gypsy woman, who tells them the date of their deaths. They don't share the information with each other, except for Simon, who, it is predicted, will die young. This compelling novel follows each of the Gold siblings throughout their lives. Simon moves to San Francisco at the age of 16, and becomes a ballet dancer. Klara pursues her dream of becoming a magician, first in San Francisco, and then in Las Vegas. Daniel is a military doctor with a wife named Mira. Varya remains single, and becomes a scientist, studying longevity in primates and humans. Each character follows his or her destiny, but how much they are influenced by their knowledge is different for each one. It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe that a person can predict the future, you won’t be able to stop reading until you find out if the characters in The Immortalists believe it.— Sharon K. Nagel
The novel reads as an inspired, heart-wrenching nineties movie a la Big or Only You, only the conceit here is that a psychic is able to tell our four siblings when they're going to die -- not help them be old or fake the name of the man someone will marry. The question is vintage, but it's always with us: When we get to our ends, will we list should'ves or celebrations? Remembering to place the characters in time and specific scenes, the writing is re-readable when it pauses to etch out a reflection and is rideable as we learn each sibling's fate, each family member wanting, secretly, to spend more time with each other than perhaps they were ever supposed to have.— Todd Wellman
This will be an excellent book club book. The narrative is a study in the differences of philosophies: Simon's fatalistic/nihilistic determination; Klara's Determinism; Varya's belief that diligent, perhaps obsessive, organization of life will keep the gypsy woman's prophecy from touching her life - keeping herself hidden in seeming safety, sequestered in science; and Daniel's denial, outfitted with 'blinkers', about his accountability to the role he plays in sending young people into harm's way. We may ask ourselves, and others, whether or not it is the moment by moment decisions we make that comprise the stepping stones toward death.
There is much to discuss in the way of human history, and what it is that causes a human being to view the inevitability of death as a journey, filled with opportunities to exercise free will; or a trek ending at a specific destination in time and space.— Scott Espinoza
A dazzling family love story reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You from a novelist heralded by Lorrie Moore as a "great new talent." 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.
About the Author
Chloe Benjamin is the author of the novel The Anatomy of Dreams, which received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. A San Francisco native, Benjamin is a graduate of Vassar College and of the University of Wisconsin, where she received her MFA in fiction. She lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin.