The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

Hardcover, 2018

Call number




G.P. Putnam's Sons (2018), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages


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. Bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality. 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.… (more)

Media reviews

Chloe Benjamin pulls this novel off almost as a series of four set-pieces, enriched by period detail from each era.

Library's review

There are some remarkable, memorable, and unusual characters in this novel. The story line is unique and unpredictable. There are fortune tellers, magicians, army doctors, anti-aging researchers, San Francisco in the early 80s, intense family relationships, and more. One of the characters, Ruby, is
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the daughter of a Jewish (woman) magician and an Indian (man) entrepreneur (who has a memorable scene where he takes the Jewish family to task over comparisons between the Iraq War and the Occupied West Bank--handled with interesting equanimity by Benjamin's dialog, I must say). SPOILER ALERT OF SORTS: Ruby ends the novel, having taken over her mother's magic act, at the grandmother's nursing home, intoning her mother's borrowed pre-act incantation (behind the curtain, addressing the audience): "I love you all, I love you all, I love you all." (Brian)
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User reviews

LibraryThing member JanJanFreeman
It's a question that many have been asked: If you could be told the exact date you will die, would you want to know? The 4 Gold siblings came across a fortune teller who offered this information right around a time where each of them discovered the fragility of life. Little did they know that
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finding out when they will die would affect the rest of their lives. Told in four parts, one part focusing on the life of each sibling, The Immortalists goes deep into the choices we make and their lasting effects.

DNF at 28%: Getting through Simon's story took substantial effort and deflated any hope I had of finishing the rest of the book. It was fairly easy to tell the tone and style just through the first story alone. Dark and jagged. It is not for the optimistic, to say the least. Furthermore, it felt jagged in the sense that it feels like it was written with random ideas thrown in and then patched together instead of a smooth plot line. For example, Simon and his very serious boyfriend will be having a serious conversation and then, mid-conversation, Simon has his hands down his boyfriend's pants. His boyfriend is even annoyed by this, as I was as the reader, as it seemed out of place and it happens often. It feels like the author wasn't sure how the characters should handle conflict so she randomly threw in sexual moments that seem out of place. It basically lacked intimacy and fluidity. Along with that is that the story is so choppy that it is hard to feel connected to any of the characters. It felt like the author had a bunch of ideas that she came up with and threw them all in rather than catering the plot to the one or two great ideas. For example: Simon is the oldest, most responsible, supposed to take over the family business, yet runs off to San Francisco, becomes a dancer for a club named Purple (oooooooh what if we have the dancers paint themselves Purple to realllly blend it together?), yet also becomes a polished ballet dancer during the day with his miraculous talent that he only recently started training yet learns quickly and gets a part onstage.

For all of these reasons, I had to put the book down after Simon’s story and move on. I would not recommend this book, clearly. However, I would especially not recommend this book for those readers who may be offended or triggered by explicitly graphic sexual scenarios, foul language, broken families, grief, fortune-telling, death, STDs, runaway teens, or infidelity.

Please note: an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided through Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member indygo88
Four siblings, while in their youth, visit a fortune teller one afternoon, who tells each of them, in turn (and in private), the exact date in which they will die. The story then devotes a section to each sibling as they age, and yes, eventually meet their deaths.

I really liked the idea behind
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this book. It was intriguing and thought-provoking. After all, if you knew the date in which you were going to die, would it change the way you lived? Maybe, maybe not. But I really felt like the story was missing something. It had so much potential. I could just imagine the amount of angst one might feel if they knew their death day was soon approaching. But I never felt like any of the characters in this book exhibited that type of angst. Yes, it was interesting to see how each sibling lived their life differently from one another, but I'm not convinced that their life choices were influenced by the knowledge they received at a younger age. The story itself was decent, but I really thought it could've been so much more than it was.
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LibraryThing member mcelhra
The four Gold siblings range in age from seven to thirteen years old when they pay a visit to the woman on Hester Street, a mysterious woman who is rumored to be able to give a person his or her exact date of death. Some of the siblings are given an early death date, while others are told they will
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have a long life. Each of them internalizes this information differently.

The Immortalists was one of my book club’s selections and turned out to be a great choice. There is a discussion guide at the back of the paperback edition. We had a deep conversation about whether or not knowing the supposed date of our deaths would cause us to live our lives any differently. And would it make a difference how far into the future the date was? We also talked about how each character lived their lives in response to knowing the date they were predicted to die.

I love epic books that follow families for decades. The Immortalists is one of those books. I loved getting to know each Gold sibling in depth even though I didn’t always actually love them. It’s hard to say much more without spoiling it. The Immortalists is a sweeping novel that will stay with you for a time after you read it. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
A well-written, emotionally charged novel, a page-turner of a different kind. The writer's voice spoke to me, urging me to read on and on. Four siblings, four lives - bound together by a freaky event in childhood, and yet four destinies that couldn't have been more different. A vivid description of
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the power of fate versus personal will, the fight between the two. The place of religion (Judaism here) in everyday life, the rebellion against the old norms of it in the younger generation. The magic element - not usually my thing, but here it was somehow justified. I was also impressed by the writer's skill of depicting even the most secondary characters in a way that (even in a sentence or two) gave me a full story of what they are. A writer to keep in mind.
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LibraryThing member cyderry
The concept of this book is rather intriguing, however, I don't think that the product did the concept justice. What would you, how would you live your life if you knew the date that you were going to die? This book centers around that concept for 4 children who learn the date their date from a
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gypsy/foretuneteller. Each child is told in private a date and then they are sent away. One is told he will die young, another will live to old age, and the others are given various dates. Interesting idea but then it seems that the stories are contrived to live to those dates rather than giving the reader other possibilities. The characters were not likeable and the only portion that seem realistic at all was the dysfunction of the family. I read it for my book club. otherwise I would have ditched it early on.
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LibraryThing member The_Literary_Jedi
Going in to this story, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was captured quite quickly by the story of the Gold siblings and the way their lives played out after an eventful summer afternoon in their childhood. The experience itself in the story is only told through one of the children’s eyes, but
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the entire novel revolves around each of them receiving a prophecy from a fortune teller.

There are four sections, one for each sibling and they carry on through the years of their lives. The reader isn’t given many flashbacks and if they are used, they are in the moment and occur as they do to you in real life; triggered by an incident you’re currently in. I appreciated that Benjamin kept the story moving forward constantly rather than succumbing to the folly of relying heavily on the flashback scenario.

Each sibling is crafted well and written better. There are several instances when you can physically hear one of them speaking as though they were saying the lines directly to you; or you can imagine a member of your own family who has the same traits. These characters come from the page and become more real and that’s a beautiful tragedy to this story.

The essence, for me, was the human side of this story and how “thoughts have wings” to take the human fancy into realms it normally wouldn’t traverse. That’s another excellent part of this story as well; each sibling does something different with what they’re told but eventually, the reader comes to see how each of them was running away from and toward their destiny at the same time.

I’d recommend this novel to readers who are interested in human conditions, mysticism, or perhaps just really good stories about people and the lives they choose to live. There may be some instances were readers have a difficult time - sexual interactions, the AIDS epidemic, alcoholism, suicide, and primate laboratory testing.

**All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
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LibraryThing member purple_pisces22
I don’t know why but I found this to be a really enjoyable book. I realize that the subject was pretty intense but I really especially enjoyed the two younger siblings stories. I like that the author did not shy away from things that are not exactly politically correct.
LibraryThing member bbbbecky13
This book was fantastic. It started off rather slowly, in my opinion, and it took me a while to really get into it, but as soon as I got past the prologue, I was hooked.

So many questions arise as you're reading. Well, actually, there were two that really kept nagging at me.

First, are all the
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siblings going to die on their supposed death day? I loved that the book was structured into four parts, one for each sibling, so that you had to wait until the very end of each segment to find out if the prophecy came true.

Second, how much of the fortune teller's prophecy came true because it was real and was always going to come true, and how much of it was influenced by knowing that date and fearing it?

Love, love, love. Awesome book.
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LibraryThing member alanna1122
It has been a while since I have been engaged this much with a book. I had a really hard time putting it down and found my self constantly reaching for it to find out what happens next. I thought Benjamin did a wonderful job creating characters that were interesting and I cared about. To be fair -
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just like in all books with a group of protagonists, there were some characters that interested me more and I felt more invested in - but I enjoyed reading about all of them.

I almost didn't read this book because I definitely dont like books that have a heavy magical element to them - but it was overdone - it was mostly just a really good story about a family.
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LibraryThing member deckla
How would you live if you knew (or thought you knew) the day you were going to die? This is the question Chloe Benjamin takes on in her medium-sized novel, The Immortalists.

In the prologue, Varya, age 13, Daniel, 11, Klara, 9, and Simon, age 7, living on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side in
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1969. become fascinated by a fortune teller they learn of, and pay her a visit. Seeing each child separately, she reveals the date of their own death. The youngest will supposedly die the soonest, on up to the oldest, who will live until she is 88.

The novel first follows Simon, leaving high school his junior year to move to San Francisco with his older sister Klara, and breaking his mother’s heart in the process. Simon immerses himself in the free and open gay culture of Harvey Milk’s San Francisco. He dies, at 20, of AIDS, precisely on the day predicted.

Then comes Klara, who lives her dream of becoming a magician, like her hero Howard Thurston, marries Raj Chamar, an Indian with equally big dreams, and bears a child, Ruby. Her death date falls upon the opening of the couple’s magic show in Las Vegas, but the knowing is too much for Klara, and she commits suicide, at 31.

Daniel becomes a doctor, but is overwhelmed with guilt, for it was his idea to visit the fortune teller. After he gets into trouble on his job doing physicals for army recruits, he becomes obsessed enough to track down the fortune teller the Gold children visited so long ago, and in the process ends up getting shot, age 48.

Although the last chapters of the book are about Varya, we don’t witness her death, but rather her eventual recovery from the trauma she has endured over the deaths of her siblings.
Thus the book ends on a hopeful note.

I found the book well-written. The stories of each of the children are fascinating and divergent enough to incite the curiosity to keep reading. The concept of the book is original, and provokes questions about one's own brief existence. Worth the read.
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LibraryThing member joweirqt
The author clearly spent considerable time on research. This Immortalists is essentially four stories in one book, each with its own distinct character with their own individual career. From magic to biology, dance to medicine, the author has done her homework to portray realism in each character's
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Sure, it's not a page-turner to keep you awake at night wondering what will happen next. But it's a clever book based upon an interesting premise.

Personally I'd like to have had more of the supernatural aspect but there was a good amount nonetheless, and even some ghostly presence to satisfy people who, like me, chose the book based on its future-seeing premise.

Having enjoyed this author's work in The Immortalists, I'll be keen to read her other books.
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LibraryThing member arthistorychick
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Source: Netgalley
My Rating: 2/5 stars


The Immortalists falls into the category of reads where I find myself questioning whether I liked the read or not. The only way to sort out the answer is with a list of likes and dislikes.

I like
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the premise of this read, the idea of the power of suggestion and how it impacts a person throughout his or her life. In this instance, four children, at far to young an age, were told by a gypsy woman the dates of each of their respective deaths which in turn wreaks havoc on their lives from that moment forward. As the children grow into adults, each tries, without much success to forge a path, a life out from under the shadow of a death date.

Unfortunately, the promise of the premise utterly fell apart as the story unfolded. From the moment the children discover their respective death dates, each travel along a collision course headlong toward what becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. For a time, each of the four siblings find a small measure of happiness – Simon in his dancing and relationship, Klara in her daughter, Daniel in his ability to help others, and Varya in her work – but, it isn’t enough, in the end, to sustain any of them.

The book is broken into four sections, one for each of the siblings and each is sadder, more pathetic than the last. Simon is very much a product of his time and place, Klara is a product of undiagnosed/untreated mental illness, Daniel is a victim of his own obsession, and Varya, well, I’m still not sure what went sideways with her. Ultimately, each of siblings feels helpless in the face of a death sentence and rather than fight, they give in to what they each clearly see as the inevitable. This giving up, the sense of doom and inevitability is the root of my displeasure with this book. None of these siblings ever reached out to anyone for help, sought to help one another, and no one in their lives, apparently, cared enough to encourage them to seek help. Furthermore, each sibling is so caught up in his or her own life and BS, weighed down by old hurts and betrayals, they can’t see a life beyond what they feel is a fixed moment in time. To this end, each, even when in a relationship, becomes so isolated as to become quite hopeless. From page one, it is clear this read there is going to be nothing but waste, waste of talents and more importantly, a waste of lives.

The Bottom Line: The Immortalists is one of those reads I fully expected to like and found very much lacking in the end. In the end, I was very much disappointed by the characters in this book, literally every one of them. All the siblings, all four of them had every opportunity to help themselves and one another yet, none of them took such steps and/or measures. In large part, I stuck with this book because I kept hoping someone would finally pull their head and do the right thing. Though one of the siblings does end up living, it isn’t much of a life and it’s filled with the guilt of knowing how little help was offered and/or given to her siblings. In the end, I found this book tragic in the worst sense possible as well as frustrating beyond belief.
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LibraryThing member cherybear
I didn't like this story of 4 siblings who went to a fortune-teller to find out the dates they would die. Simon and his sister Klara escape New York City to San Francisco, where Simon becomes a dancer, and Klara a magician. Daniel becomes a doctor, and Varya researches longevity. They are all
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scarred by the visit to the fortune teller.
It is about fate, and grief, and siblings, yes. But also love and loss and family. .. I couldn't identify with any of the characters, and as usual, was angry with most (all?) of them for decisions they made. But who am I to judge?
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LibraryThing member sparemethecensor
I couldn't finish this. The male gaze was too strong. I should have known from the very first page, when literally (literally!) the second paragraph is describing the breasts of a 13 year old child. It doesn't get better. The author is a woman and it is so depressing to think this is what she
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thinks about children (or thinks readers want). There are more examples and I couldn't get past them. Not recommended.
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LibraryThing member curious_squid
Color me confused.

The book had an interesting premise but I didn't feel like I understood any of the characters.
It felt like reading the 4th book in a series where all the explanation had happened several books ago.

There were snippets from 4 siblings lives, but I didn't understand why they made
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any of their choices in the end. Especially Varya - why was she the way she was? Was she just born that way? It felt like the few things we learned throughout the book had no baring on her actual story. Daniel & Klara - why did they choose the endings to their story's?

I was waiting for the story lines to intersect or explain tidbits that were dropped in Klara's story (strawberries? knocking?) but it just felt like mini stories from three people's life.
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LibraryThing member beckyhaase
THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin
THE IMMORTALISTS follows four children throughout their lives. The children visit a woman who tells them their death date. That knowledge compels each of the young people to follow a different pathway through life. A gay boy who is uncertain of his sexuality and
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self-worth, a girl who may be suffering from a mental illness and infatuated by magic, a girl who is intellectually brilliant but socially inept and a boy who is the family’s “golden child” intent on doing everything perfectly make up this group of siblings.
Each one’s story is told in succession with little interaction between the siblings until each one’s death. Each story is compelling on its own. The characters are well developed. Each life story has a clear beginning, middle and end. The place and time each sibling’s story covers is detailed and distinct.
An intriguing, well written, and aware novel delineating the difference between belief and science, reality and fantasy. The choices each sibling makes will resonate long after you finish reading.
5 of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member m.belljackson
The Prologue introduces Varya in all her 13 year old maiden glory. That she now has "fur"
alerts readers to the potential of human to animal immortality. But no.
Instead, the Gold family offers a good father and a barely endurable mother.

Led by younger brother Daniel, Varya and younger siblings,
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Simon and Klara, sneak away to find
a women who allegedly can predict the date of a person's death. Readers have time to ponder
whether they also would want this maybe certain and maybe devastating knowledge. The woman
meets with each child one by one and they instantly change: Daniel now steely and angry, Klara sad
and crying, Simon sad, furious and rebelling, Varya still mistrustful, but happy to have the promised 88 year life.

At this point, the plot was so mesmerizing that I went back to read the Prologue again to be sure that
nothing was missed. Suspense mounts as Simon nears his death date. By this time, he and Karla have
secretly moved to San Francisco's Castro District of the 1960s where he has quickly enjoyed all the gay life
handed to a new young man. Unfortunately, he also shows little character as he takes unprotected chances
on getting the new 'Gay Disease.' He chooses not to tell his loyal and loving partner, Robert, of this decision
to take a chance on killing them both. Offering his lover a choice would have been the fair and decent option.
Karla seems not at all concerned when her brother turns into a passive murderer.

Readers not turned off by his actions and intrigued by magic acts, Las Vegas cruelty to tigers, and Karla's
incessant circus performances of The Jaws of Life may wonder about Fate vs Self-fulfilling Prophecy as she
takes her own life on her preordained death day. Why did she choose to punish her husband and child rather
than to wait and see what the night would bring? Her path was way too predictable and selfish given her
obsession with her grandmother's death and Simon's knocking from the great beyond.

As if three suicides, by risk, by hand, and the truly improbable, by cop, weren't enough to overflow a plot,
readers are next subjected to the bristling horror of an Animal Experimentation Lab. They may wish that
Varya had defeated the prophecy and killed herself BEFORE setting up yet another unneeded cruel experiment
to destroy Frieda's existence. Depriving animals of their real life in a pitiful human quest for more spurious
data yields nothing but more people with no character, including her son Luke who should have gone directly
to PETA. Still more horrifying, neither he nor Varya do ANYTHING to save Frieda from more pain.

Hal and the entire University of Wisconsin Primate Lab would be proud.

I obviously felt no connection nor cared about the fates of any of the main characters and only rarely
the minor ones - Ruby, Raj, Eddie, and, of course, Robert.
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LibraryThing member ChrisWay
Excellent! One of the best books I have read this year.
LibraryThing member Kathl33n
What an interesting and really thought-provoking read. If you could know the day of your death, would you want to? If you did know, would it change or impact the way you lived your life? Would that knowledge be a self-fulfilling prophecy? This story poses those questions through the lives of four
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siblings who the reader follows from early childhood when they all learn the exact day of their death. The author did an amazing job in creating these siblings, each individual and unique, yet strung tightly together through their upbringing. In fact, all the characters were richly formed and beautifully written. But I can't complete this review without mentioning the topic of loss. The book is filled with it, in fact, in parts the feeling of loss was actually palatable as I read. It was deeply moving. And can I mention the cover? In the black matte finish it had small flecks of gold that sparkled when they hit the sunlight. Beautiful. Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
The novel begins in 1969 with Gold family--Saul, Gertie, and their 4 children Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon--living in New York City. One afternoon the 4 kids go to see a psychic who will tell them the dates of their deaths.

And from there we follow each of the kids' lives. How accurate was the
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pyschic? How does her prediction affect each of the kids in their life choices and career decisions? The 4 kids live very different lives in their daring, their career and educational choices--how much of that is a result of the predictions? Did the psychic (accidentally or otherwise) steer them to decisions that would lead to the intended outcomes? Or is fate just fate?

This book is very well written and well organized. I love family sagas and I love novels that follow people as this one does—and sometimes such novels get messy and confusing. Benjamin has done a great job telling the stories of the 4 kids while interweaving them and those of Saul and Gertie and significant others and their kids. She also ties up the potential loose ends of significant others and children.

A pleasure to read.
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LibraryThing member mzonderm
In 1969, the four Gold siblings visit a supposedly mystical woman who can tell the date on which someone will die. The oldest sibling, Varya, is 13 when they receive the prophecy, and learns that she will live to 88. Simon, the youngest sibling at 7, learns that he will die at 20.

Benjamin chooses
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to tell the siblings' stories consecutively, in order of their death, which took a lot of the suspense out of the question of whether the prophecies were ultimately true, leading me to understand that the driving questions of this book is actually, "Does knowing the date of your death become a self-fulfilling prophecy?" Benjamin seems to take it for granted that we can accept the legitimacy of the prophecy but is so heavy-handed in answering the question of self-fulfillment that the stories of what happen to the siblings seems very shallow.
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LibraryThing member fredreeca
Four siblings visit a fortune teller. Each were told the date of their death. This impacts them in ways no one can imagine.
This book is divided into 4 sections. One for each of the Gold children. The first section starts with Simon. I can't imagine a better starting point. Simon escapes his
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family and travels to the west coast with his sister Klara. Simon and Klara learn more about themselves than they planned on. Simon stops at nothing. This is not necessarily a good thing.
Klara makes a name for herself. She follows her dream to become a magician. This eventually leads her to Las Vegas. Has she hit the big time? Is she happy?
Daniel becomes a doctor. He recently hits a snag in his career. This takes him down the path to find the fortune teller. Did the dates she give them change the way they all approached their lives?
Then there is Varya. She becomes a scientist. She researches responses in monkeys to determine life span. Is she going to control her date of death? Or what does she plan on achieving?
These four characters all have flaws. Simon is the most heart wrenching story. Klara is a character I most related too. Her tenacity, witt, and determination are not to be messed with. Daniel is a little bit of a conundrum. He is intelligent. Too intelligent to do what he does. The there is Varya. She is almost too smart for her own good.
All four of these young people's lives have been changed based on one visit to this medium. This is like four spirits intertwined about one past day. The characters and their stories are riveting, heartbreaking, momentous and so on.....
Well! I started the new year off with a super good read! The Immortalists is not to be missed. Mesmerizing, captivating....I could keep going but you get the picture.
I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
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LibraryThing member miss.mesmerized
In summer 1969, the four Gold kids are still young. Varya is only 13, Daniel 11, Klara 9 and Simon just 7. It is the last summer they spend together before the eldest do not want to play with younger ones anymore. But it is also the summer that will change their lives and determine their fates.
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Having eavesdropped a couple of boys they head to a house where a gipsy woman is telling the future. The kids all just have one question: when will I die? They each get an answer, an exact date. But instead of just laughing and forgetting about it and not taking it seriously, this information will always loom over them.

The novel received a lot of attention and was highly acclaimed before being published. What starts as a story about four kids and a strange prediction, turns into one of the best novels of the last years. After the opening scene, Chloe Benjamin tells the siblings‘ stories, starting with the youngest who is predicted to die first. Each has a singular life, an interesting character and their story blends perfectly with societal developments of their times. Not only a cleverly constructed plot, but also relevant questions about what is important in life, how much do family bonds count and how free are you in shaping your life -and what is determined by fate?

You always wait in a story staring with the presentation of a group of characters for who will turn out to be the most intriguing, the most interesting and the one with the biggest crisis. Benjamin treats the four kids equally. Astonishingly, the moment when each is taking over, he or she becomes really the centre, the focus of everything. Thus, we do not get the development if the others which makes a lot of secrets revealed only later as well as many situations being judged from one perspective when there are actually several points of view which allow you to see a situation also in a completely different way.

The story is often sad, full of despair and emotion. It is hard to say how Benjamin makes you completely indulge in it, but you feel with the characters, you can sense their loss and thus get a wonderful novel to read. Exceptional writing paired with a cleverly constructed novel, carefully drawn characters and the smooth insertion of important topics – is there anything more a reader could wish for?
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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher.*

This book had a intriguing start - four siblings in 1960s New York City visit an old Gypsy fortune teller and are told the dates of their eventual deaths. As the years go by, one by one the siblings pass on the days foretold by the old woman.
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Questions about the inevitability of their fates haunt the siblings, as they struggle with living their lives and preparing for what they believe might cause their ends. An interesting read, filled with complex family dynamics and intriguing questions.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
In many ways, The Immortalists is an adult version of They Both Die at the End. Both explore the idea of fate versus choice. Both deal with the idea of living your life knowing when your last day is. Unfortunately, as good as Chloe Benjamin‘s novel is, I do think Adam Silvera did it better.

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thing is, The Immortalists is a well-written novel. The Gold children each deal with the knowledge of their death date in different ways, with a wide variety of success and tragedy. Simon’s story is particularly poignant and inspiring. No matter how you react to each of the siblings, however, Ms. Benjamin gets you to react. You care enough to feel for these four children and the lives they lead. Their deaths, while not unexpected, are still tragic in the fact that they happen if not how. You want the psychic to be wrong and hope the kids can beat back any demons that haunt them. It is an emotional novel that questions the idea of fate versus choice.

In spite of all that emotional goodness, I am left feeling rather unsatisfied. One could debate for days whether each of the siblings would have acted in the same way had they never learned about their death date and therefore knowing this information contributed to their demise. It makes for a fascinating but ultimately unsatisfactory discussion because there are no definitive answers to either point. Regardless if there was, this is not the point of the story. The story is about family and about living a genuine life. The thing is that no one really learns these lessons. The siblings part ways early on in the novel and remain apart from one another if not completely estranged in some form. As for living a genuine life, well, that too may be up for debate. This all makes me question whether the learning lessons are more for readers rather than the characters, which I find somewhat disappointing. The Immortalists then becomes a 352-page lecture, albeit a well-told one.

I suspect my feelings about The Immortalists would be different had I not read Adam Silver’s latest masterpiece a few short months ago. In his story, the focus is two characters and one day, allowing readers a greater opportunity to get to know them and to experience their last day alongside them. Ms. Benjamin has us as silent witnesses versus silent participants. Not only that but by keeping the focus to one day, we see the difference it makes when one truly lives their life without fear and without worry. Ms. Benjamin’s version, by occurring over five decades, makes this more nebulous, and we don’t necessarily see the Gold siblings living without fear or worry. We see them, for the most part, as adults worried about the same things as every other adult.

For me, The Immortalists is good but it cannot be as good as Adam Silvera’s novel. This is not only because I read it first but also because I remain more impressed with how he told his story, with his characterization, and the method by which he laid out his theme. Ms. Benjamin’s novel suffers from uneven characters, a theme which makes no sense in the context of the story, and from the feeling of repetitiveness that comes with having recently read a more impressive and memorable similar story.
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Golden Poppy Book Award (Shortlist — Fiction — 2018)
Wingate Literary Prize (Shortlist — 2019)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Fiction — 2019)




0735213186 / 9780735213180
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