The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists

Chloe Benjamin

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.

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“A captivating family saga.”—The New York Times Book Review

“You won’t be able to put it down.”The Skimm (Skimm Reads Pick)

“This literary family saga is perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Donna Tartt.”—People Magazine (Book of the Week)

“A sprawling, enchanting family saga.”—Entertainment Weekly (The Must List)

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

Oooooo!!! Is it supernatural? Is it real? Is it coincidence? Now, now, no spoilers! I really enjoyed the format for the book. The author tells the story through the eyes of the various characters, switching between them to give different view points. The basic story covers the struggles of a Jewish American family as one member after another dies after the siblings visit a Romani fortune teller one hot summer in their early youth. That visit haunts them to the end of the book.

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 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.

This book was unlike anything I’ve perhaps ever read and was beautifully written. It suffered a bit from the fact that it’s told in four different sections by four different narrators and I vastly preferred some of the narrators to others, but overall it was a lovely read and one of those books I find myself thinking back on long after I finished it. It would be a great great read for a book group, I think. Four stars.

Brilliant novel. I cannot say enough good things about this story. Definitely one of my favorites. A traveling psychic who foretells the date of death for each of four siblings. The story spans from 1969 through the present. Did the psychic impact their fates by the lounge them their date of death? It is a great concept that is so well executed. I would absolutely recommend.

Another sequel. I wish this site would offer the first books! Ok, maybe they did and I just missed it. Any way, this is an alright book. I like the family dynamics and the love hate relationship they have with their religion. I could do without the animal cruelty scene!

n 1969 New York City, four siblings embark on a mission to find out the date they will die. A fortune teller is rumored to be living in the city and they are eager to tempt fate with a reading. Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya Gold each receive their day of death standing alone with the mystic and decide to keep it hidden from the others. But the day is never farm from their thoughts. The book is told from each siblings point of view in four different sections. Almost like separate books with a slight cross over. This works well and helps the reader to develop a relationship with the different characters. “If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?” This is the sole question at the core of The Immortalist. I believe it is the hardest question a person could ever have to answer. Would you be reckless? Would you be a recluse? Take chances or not? This would be a great book for book clubs to discuss. I enjoyed reading it and thank Chloe Benjamin and Penguin First to Read for an eARC.

The Immortalist is not a book one would usually see here on this blog, but it was a very intriguing read and a thoughtful pick. Everyone knows the same to know the future is to be trapped by it and that is very much the scope of this novel it is the bubble that this novel lives in, and it is fascinating to see that concept take control of the novel and drive it forward for these four separate and different characters. The novel opens with four young children, siblings of various ages, who see a psychic about their deaths. The idea of death is not one that one would think children would be interested in and yet it is the climax of this novel, opening with such a powerful moment giving the story a strong foundation. This news affects each child in such a different way, and it is interesting to see the way cause and effect work in this novel. It goes through the motions of evaluating the child, going from youngest to oldest and studying how their knowledge of death has affected their lives and how their lives, and deaths, in turn, affect one another. It is interesting to see how these stories interconnect and how these siblings grow apart and then verge together. There’s sadness in the novel but also love and the novel, it captures such a compelling idea, not about death but life, about living one’s life. No one ever wants to think about death, but it is always around the corner, it is impossible to escape, but these characters have to live their lives despite that. No, they learn to live their lives despite that. Moreover, through each character, the reader can see how they seek to live their lives, how they seek to be happy with the time they have. Because that is what life is, it is about being happy. Moreover, as much as this novel focuses on life and death and being happy, it also gives strength to the family dynamic. No family is perfect, some may look it, but every family has their problems on how everyone acts contrary to what they want. However, it teaches a lesson here in the novel: that no one should be expected to put their lives on hold for other people. That is not living, and these characters discover that, through trial and heartbreak, these characters discover happiness in their lives, even knowing that death is coming on a specific day. Even more realistic is the tension driven relationship between the family. Often it is critical and angry, but it is also loving. There is so much realism to the novel as it moves from the 80s and the AIDS crisis to present day, capturing the time periods with ease. Significant things happened and to see how they affected these four characters, in such different ways, was terrific. It brings the characters to life, giving them dimension through the time, making them sympathetic characters. There are times when the reader both loves and hates them when the characters annoying them yet are being entirely reasonable in their desires to be happy. It is an emotionally driven novel driven by emotionally driven characters. The characters are what make the novel as they strive to learn the meaning of living. Sure, it is a cliché in numerous mediums that there is a difference between living and surviving, and this novel addresses that without being cliché about it. It tells a story about four people who had something bizarre happen to them when they were children, it shows the reader the effects of that knowledge and the changes in these characters. It captures life, both beautifully and unremorsefully. (????? | B+)

I fully expected to not like this book. It was so incredibly hyped that I thought there was no way it would live up to it. And the very first opening page turned me off completely. I read the bulk of this on a flight between DC and Albuquerque, after finishing two other books. So I started this, and then the next thing I knew, the plane was preparing its descent and I had less than 100 pages to go. I ended up finishing the book that evening. How would you live your life if you knew the day you would die? Benjamin crafted a thoughtful story that explores that question, and delves into quality vs. quantity of life. The four Gold siblings visit a psychic who tells them their death dates, which span from tragically young to old age. The book is divided up into sections focusing on each sibling, and after one's death, the narrative - like passing a baton - passes to the next sibling. The story has that self-fulfilling prophecy paradox that makes my head hurt if I think too hard about, and that I so love. By knowing their death dates, that influences the actions of each of the siblings. Whereas if they hadn't known, then their lives would have gone off in a different course and would they still have died on those dates? Shades of Macbeth here! The last section of the book was perfect, even though at the time, I didn't think it would be. But it really delves into the quality vs. quantity issue - yes, we can prolong how long we live, but is it a life worth living? There were a few issues I had. First, the random throwaway sexual references which just seemed odd and out-of-place instead of edgy. The book opened - and this was the passage that made me think I'd hate the book - with a description of Varya's body post-puberty, complete with references to her breasts and her pubic hair. (Um... okay?) Second, problematic portrayals of gypsies. Which I won't go into too much because it's a spoiler, but it's there and made me twitch. It threw me completely out of Daniel's story.

From the first page, the book provides excellent imagery for the readers. It also has a good plot and tells the story for each character in a way that isn’t complicated for readers to comprehend. It kept me want to turn every page in anticipation and I didn’t want to put it down. After all, wouldn’t you want to know when you die? What would you do if you knew?

The Immortalists has left me a little puzzled as to how to review the book. I was so excited about the premise of the story. What does one do when they are told the date of their death? This group of four siblings had that information, and I was really intrigued by the opening chapters. I enjoyed the individual attention given to each sibling's story as each section unfolded. What didn't work for me was the characters themselves. I didn't particularly like any of them. I empathized with their struggles and pain (especially Simon's), but I just never felt like I was really pulling for any of them to go out and conquer their demons. While the book is beautifully written, I was left feeling a little sad that I didn't care more for the characters. I did, after reading the advance reading copy, purchase this title in both e-book and audio book format. I plan to attempt a second read of this book later this year.

I couldn't really sink my teeth into this book because the often stilted nature of the language kept taking me out of the world of these characters. Child characters are always a hard sell for me, and I was put off from the start by the incongruently mature voices of the kids. I finished the story, since it was interesting enough and I was curious as to how it would all end, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Received an ARC for an honest review. I'm on the fence about this one. The premise was great and it really made me think. Did these kids seal their fates by learning their days of death or would they have died then anyway? I liked the layout of the story and that Benjamin gave each sibling their due. That said, I'm not entirely sure that I liked any of them. I was invested in each of their stories, but I can't say I was rooting for them. This one kept me thinking, long after I finished it. It makes you think about fate and destiny and whether or not we write our own stories or they're pre-written. All in all, a good read.

The Immortalists is a compelling meditation on free will, interconnectedness, higher powers that we create and empower, and most of all, self-fulfilling prophecies. The 4 siblings of the Gold family each learn the date of their death at a young age in 1969. The book then follows each one in turn, from their religious father's death and shiva (the last time all 4 are together) forward through time to a demise (which happens to go from youngest to oldest); and then moves to the next. Each one is haunted by the fortune teller experience, and many cross paths with a policeman-turned-FBI agent who may has a knack for turning up around the predicted date and wittingly or unwittingly affecting some of the Golds' trajectories. We follow the siblings along on the interesting choices they make, and how they are to some degree haunted by their parents, their upbringing, and the family history. They are each grappling for how much they are in control of their lives and how much they are led along an inevitable destiny.

I am always contemplating the future. I wonder where will I be in X amount of years; will I be successful; what will I be doing; what will my family be doing etc. I want to know what the future holds. I wonder how I would react if I found out the date of my death. Would it free me, allowing me to do the things I've always wanted or would it cripple me? These questions are present in The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. The novel centers around four siblings who find out when they will die from a fortune teller. Each sibling reacts differently and we follow them while they navigate their life with this information. I appreciated the way the novel is structured with each sibling getting their own section. It really allows you to focus on that character and get some insight into their life for a short period. The two sections I liked and connected to the most were Simon and Varya's. They have polar opposite reactions and it's interesting to compare. I liked Karla's section, but found my interest waning in the middle. Daniel's section was my least favorite. Without giving too much away, I didn't like the direction Benjamin took with his character and I had to suspend my belief with certain occurrences near the end of his section. The novel is very thought-provoking and has a lot of depth. It made me think about life, death, family, fate and free will, among other things. This book will stick with me for awhile and I really appreciate it when a book makes think long after I read it. If you are looking for a well-written literary fiction novel, I definitely recommend this to you.

The story is based around a group of siblings who find out the day they will each die - thanks to a clairvoyant. They then leave their childhood home behind and find ways to cope - or not cope - with the information they were given. Although each character has their own distinct personality, I find that the dialogue falls short and doesn’t keep me interested enough to finish it until the end.

This book was overall pretty good. It explores the notion of self-fulfilling prophecies, following four siblings who were told the days of their deaths when they were young. Each sibling then confronts that day when it comes on their own. I was a little underwhelmed by the ending of the book, I have to say. And I was a little annoyed that it was never determined whether the fortune teller was legitimate or whether the siblings just made their own deaths occur because they thought death would come for them on a specific day. But overall, the writing was decent and I liked the descriptions of the siblings' lives woven throughout. I don't normally read straight-up literary fiction and I thought this was a solid book that I enjoyed reading!

If you found out the date of your death, what would you do? This book explores the way learning their death dates affect each of the Gold children. The story is incredibly well crafted. Each character has a unique voice and Benjamin pulls the story together with ease and sophistication. This novel was such a great read that will stick with me for a very long time. The story Benjamin unfolds took me on a journey not only through the lives of the Gold children, but also through my own and the ways I would react to finding out what day I would die. Would I seize the day like Simon, chase my dreams like Klara, ignore it like Daniel, or try to fix it like Varya? Benjamin spun a fantastic tale with The Immortalists and I can't wait to read what comes next.

A free e-book from Penguin First To Read in exchange for an honest review. This was not what I was expecting… As literary fiction it is driven forward by the characters and this left me underwhelmed most the time. The story focuses on four siblings and their various reactions to a prophecy of their death days. It brings to question destiny and if you can change the outcome or if its all self-fulfilling prophecies. Nothing is fully answered or even discussed, just briefly mentioned. It was interesting to see the various reactions to their noted death days. Especially since we were never told how they would die it made you question did their choices lead to death or they would have died regardless. Overall though, I didn’t really care about any of the characters. The first two stories being the least interesting made it even more of a struggle. Bits and pieces were interesting but their overall lives were very boring to me. Even the side characters were rather dull and added very little to the overall story. Something I absolutely hated, the random sexualized text. The story opens with a thirteen year old being introduced by the status of her pubic hair. Another scene adult Klara is skinny dipping and her “pubic hair blooms” before she dives in. Seriously… just why. What does women’s pubic hair have anything to do with a girl walking up steps or a woman diving into a pool. Again, this book was not what I was expecting. 2-2.5 star read

I absolutely adored this book! The layout in fantastic, the story enchanting, and overall it was a pleasure to read. Even though I read this in 2017, it might end up being my favorite book of 2018!

The word "wow!" describes this novel as four siblings-the Gold children-find out their death day. Now, the question resides if the Gold children will live their life to the fullest, or live enough to satisfy the needs of everyday life. Follow the separate lives of the children as the audience connects on their level to experiencing life and living to make others happy, afraid what it really means to live your life. I loved this novel and will be suggesting this a must-read not only in future blog posts this coming year, but to my book club readers until they say yes. The beginning is slow as the narration follows the children separately until they died, expanding on how their deaths and how they lived lives affected not only their family, but the people around them, too. At the moment, I don't know what novel explores the morality theme The Immortalists expands upon to the very last page. A must-read for 2018 and can't wait to see what Chloe Benjamin writes next time.

I'm not even sure I have the words to describe how great this was. Chloe Benjamin has woven a tale that's ethereally beautiful, and devastatingly sad, without being fluffy or saddening. She tells the tale of the Gold children's lives as they unfold after learning their dates of death as children. It is a story of love and loss and choices and chance occurrences, and family; the things that separate us and the things that bring us together. Benjamin has managed to tell a story that's surreal and yet entirely realistic all at once. I'd call this one a 2018 must-read.

I was drawn to this book based on the interesting premise- how would you live if you knew what date you would die? While I thought the book was fine overall, I would have liked if the 4 storylines interacted a little bit more. I also felt that the siblings, particularly Daniel, could have been more well-developed- they each seemed more like a group of personality traits that a fully realized character. Perhaps there was just too much going on in the book... it felt like just when I was getting into a sibling's story, it was time to jump to the next sibling. It was an enjoyable enough read, but it didn't fully deliver on the premise for me.

WOW! WOW! WOW! Completely not what I expected! Out of obligation, I continued reading past the first part which was different in the sense that four siblings are given a prophesy about the dates of their deaths, yet interesting because it made me wonder what would happen next. I wasn't sure where this would go and expected some strange, outlandish story in a fantasy genre which I don't enjoy. But I was wrong! I won't review the plot because there are enough reviews about that already. I will say that the characters were extremely well developed and each of their stories were extremely different yet intertwined with lots of family dynamics coming into play. It's no surprise that I related to some of the characters better than others. Some parts were extremely graphic which I wasn't expecting. I do have a better understanding of what it was like to be a gay teenage boy in a time before it was acceptable and extremely dangerous health-wise. And I thoroughly enjoyed the part about magic and illusion. This would be an awesome book for reading group discussions because there are so many facets to discuss - death, dying, prophesies, medical interventions and scientific research, military issues and involvement, magic and illusion,religion, values, etc. My greatest disappointment was that I wasn't able to give it more intense thought and discuss it with anyone (yet!). Highly recommend a discussion group question section to be added! This was one of the best books I've read this year (4.5 stars out of 5) and I appreciate the opportunity to review it!

I thought this was a very thought-provoking read. The story is told from the perspectives of all 4 siblings, with each one getting their own section that traverses the entirety of their lives. And their lives are very different. I liked reading about how each character was affected by their prophecy and the way it shaped/influenced their future decisions. Their paths were all so unique and that really made each character stand out to me. Some stories stood out to me more than others, but I have a feeling that most people would also feel this way. I d want to give a note to caution to some readers: if you are expecting a story with elements of magical realism, you will be disappointed; apart from this prophecy, which occurs in the very beginning of the novel, there is nothing fantastical that occurs. While I don't think the writing was spectacular, I think the story more than makes up for it. I would be lying if I said I never wondered when and how I would die - but how would this knowledge affect me? Would I try to disprove the prophecy or work harder to make it come true? Or would I not believe in it at all? Either way, it would definitely affect my life. I thought the author captured a lot of these scenarios and delivered them quite nicely, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions without it being delivered to them by a character or through dialogue. I found myself understanding the actions and emotions of all of the characters, and I felt a strong emotional connection to them all as they struggled through their lives. Each story resonated with me in its own way and it led to a very insightful read. Was it everything I had dreamed it would be? No. Even though I enjoyed this novel a great deal, there was this feeling that something was missing. However, this was a powerful and thoughtful read, and I would recommend this to anyone who likes literary fiction, and novels that cause them to question their own existence and mortality.

Chloe Benjamin's Immortalists is my 5 star book of the year. Admittedly, I had a difficult time getting past Part 1. This book would have ended up in the "never finished" pile if not for feeling an obligation to read this book as part of Penguin's First to Read program. I am sure glad I finished, as "5 stars" happen once, maybe, twice a year for me. I expected this book to weave magic and reality into the fabric of its pages (albeit my pages were electronic). Part I left me disappointed...I didn't feel the magic. What I felt was discomfort reading about men having sex with men. Homophobic is not the correct word for me. Prudish, perhaps is. I don't read steamy romance novels. I did not expect steamy sex in this book. The sex scenes were unwelcome and unwanted...seriously, I would not have made it past Part I if not for First to Read. So why the 5 stars? I find the book to be bloody brilliant, well written and thought out, and, as I love a book to do, it leaves my mind reeling with questions about life, religion, purpose, and the art of living. Part I focuses on the Gold sibling Simon and has its place and purpose. Part I sets the stage for the question "fate or free-will?" Is death predetermined? Or do actions dictate death? Maybe its both? I think many, myself included, will fall in love with Klara, the girl who follows her dreams. But hers is a sad story. Part 2 leaves me wondering about magic versus mental illness; unrealized dreams or an unwillingness to conform? Daniel's actions in Part 3 are implausible to me. I'll leave it at that so as not to interject too many spoilers. Incongruities in his character leave me wondering, "should this be my 5 star?" Yes, it should... As Part 2 makes up for Part 1, Part 4 makes up for Part 3. Ha! Maybe I just relate to the females better. I am intrigued by Varya, the eldest Gold sibling. Her character is in contrast to Simon's debauchery. While Simon represents sensory overload, Varya represent sensory underload. I say that cautiously as her character has OCD. Her attempt at sterile living is actually self-medicating...while others may use alcohol or drugs, Varya uses diet and compulsion. Immortalist is my 5 star because I love the contrast between Simon's free-living and Varya's controlled living. I love that the book gets me thinking about to live life to the fullest without over doing to follow one's dreams but stay grounded in reality. I also enjoyed the intelligent ways Chloe Benjamin weaved in topics about social injustice, from sexism to oppression. I don't think this book will appeal to the casual reader looking for nothing more than entertainment. This book, in my opinion, requires reflection and discussion.

While I thought the book was overall ok, I felt it lacked in something. The story is told over 4 different characters but I kinda felt that more detail was put into Simon’s character and then the others were rushed and jumped through different time periods and not easy to tell (on the 3 other characters) what time period you where in. I was able to like 2 of the characters, Simon and Klara, while the other two just liked overall back story and just seemed rushed on their stories. I’d give this 3.5 out of 5.

Four siblings sneak off to discover the dates of their deaths from a fortune-teller who is visiting their NY Lower East Side neighborhood, and their lives thereafter are individually and collectively revealed to the reader throughout this fascinating novel. It's difficult to imagine four such different siblings; still, their childhood closeness and experience with the Roma woman impact their futures in diverse and unique ways, even while each maintains a bond to family. With a section devoted to each of the siblings, the novel explores themes of fate vs. free will, the influence of family, and reality and illusion. The characters and the issues each wrestles with resonate with the reader after the final page has been read. I'm glad Penguin First to Read gave me the opportunity to read this ARC, and I recommend it to others.

A solid 3.5/5 stars. An interesting story and I really enjoyed the way the story was laid out and told - once I figured out the progression I thought that was well done. That being said, very few of the characters are actually likeable.

I did not expect to like this as much as I did. To be completely honest, I was into this book the minute I saw it because it has a beautiful cover. Ten pages in and I was sold. The premise is simple and very uncomplicated - how would people react if they knew when they would die? This is explored vastly through the lives of very different siblings, the Golds, who go and face the world in the most particular ways. And the interesting thing is, while I loved Simon and Klara's stories, I mostly identified myself with Varya's. It is a beautiful journey that lends itself for introspection. I also did love the variety of cultures and perspectives analyzed in the story. It is a good thing that Benjamin didn't shy away from including more and more things, even when it could have seem excesive. It just works. Aging research and magic tricks and immigration all discussed in one simple and beautiful story, which I found very satisfying. I had a good time with this one, and it might be one of the best books I've read this year. It made me cry in the gym. Which is why one shouldn't read in the gym.

I thought the idea behind this book was amazing. Unfortunately once I started reading it, it was not what I was expecting. I was uninterested on what happened to the characters and honestly didn’t care to see how it ended. I pushed through hoping it would get better but I’m sad to say the only exciting parts happen in the beginning of the book.

I found it difficult to stay interested in this book. My favorite part of the book was in the beginning when the children investigated the psychic's background. I could imagine the little ones running around, bribing friends for information. From then on, it was a struggle to keep up with the various events. There was SO much going on at any given point, and it had me in a whirlwind. It was a brilliant book concept, and I like the overall premise, but felt that it needed to be reined in somewhat.

The Immortalists held an interesting premise about four siblings who learn the date when they would die. My immediate question regarding this premise would be how the knowledge of your death date would shape the choices you made in living your life and if this knowledge actually helped make the date a reality. I felt that this knowledge really did help shape the death date for Simon and Klara who lived a little reckless and tried to appreciate all of life since their prediction was so young. It made me wonder what would have happened to these two if they had been given a later date or if they never had this knowledge. While the story is beautifully written and very detailed, I felt a bit of a disconnection with the majority of characters. I started out loving Simon and became more detached with each sibling. I did like the deliberate way this story was written based on the sibling’s death prediction. I do wonder if you could form a better connection with some of the siblings, if they played a bigger role in the other storylines or if we jumped around more to show them earlier in the book. Overall, I liked the book and I really loved how they ended on a more hopeful note with being able to see Ruby and Robert and how they ended up.

Starting in 1969 with the Gold siblings visiting a psychic, the novel then follows each in turn as the prediction--when each of them will die--informs theirs lives and choices. Each sibling is different from the others and their lives and choices feel true to life. Each is haunted by the prediction in different ways while also recognizing that it is impossible to know if their lives would have been different without this "knowledge." The novel is completely engrossing and doesn't lose its propulsion forward with the turn toward each sibling. I covered my mouth in places and gasped aloud in others and actually skipped cooking dinner to keep reading. This is a fantastic achievement and I can't wait to read Benjamin's first book now or see where she goes with her next one. This is a terrific read.

Not exactly my cup of tea but I appreciated the authors unique storytelling.

Wow. Just... wow. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that’s touched my heart as much as this one has. Maybe this is just me and where I’m at in my life right now, but this book struck a chord in me. The exact thing I needed to read at the exact moment I needed to read it. Maybe this is my own personal version of Simon’s knock. I grew so attached to these four kids and fascinated at the idea of knowing the date of our death ahead of time. When I first started this book I thought, no way would I would ever want to know. But now I’m not so sure... The first two sections about Simon and Klara were my absolute favorite. Simon was just... UGH. I loved him. At the end of his part I wept like a baby. There’s a lot about Simon and Klara that I see in myself. Their creativity, their loving nature, independence, thirst for adventure—we all have that in common. Despite the sad endings, I found an odd kind of relief in their stories. Even though they died young, they LIVED, and since my personality is so similar, it was weirdly reassuring to realize I haven’t taken any of that for granted. Admittedly I’m not doing anything as amazing as magic or ballet, but I’m not afraid to actually LIVE my life and this book makes me want to push that further. To love more, see the world, take more chances, be fearless. I will say that I had a hard time with Daniel’s section, and parts of Varya’s. During the first half I felt such a strong personal connection to Simon and Klara, but that was completely gone with Daniel and Varya. I’m a fairly practical and responsible person, but they take it to a whole new level and it was hard for me to rationalize some of their actions. However, I realize this is more of a personal preference thing on my part and the writing was so amazing throughout that I didn’t even mind. As someone who has never suffered from OCD, I really appreciated the descriptions of Varya’s idiosyncrasies and it felt like a great insight into something I’ve never experienced before. Plus, I loved the ending with Ruby and the hopeful air it gave. Overall, I thought this was a beautifully written book with an amazing message about death. I will carry this book in my heart always and keep it’s lessons a part of my everyday life.

What if you knew the date of your death? Would you live your life differently? That’s the question that Chloe Benjamin addresses in “The Immortalists,” a book with many good qualities but also flaws. Often, the author seems more interested in her extensive research (San Francisco in the time of AIDS, stage magic, the Roma, primatology) than in creating characters who feel real. Each character is defined by the after-effects of the prediction (and their relatives’ deaths) on them, making the plot seem schematic. The author writes well and addresses ambitious themes, and I will seek out her future work – but ultimately this novel didn’t completely work for me. Also, the details often felt wrong (I don't recall the word “barista” being around in the 1970s-1980s; would a gay man really have condoms in his bedroom, pre-AIDS?) - and writing “tenants of Judaism” when you mean “tenets of Judaism” (p. 290) is just embarrassing and should have been caught in editing.

Highly Enjoyable! The novel is a fascinating look at how one's belief can affect fate. The novel is constructed in a cleaver manner and I found that the characters were highly developed and fleshed out. I'd give the book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This book was breathtakingly beautiful. Organized in sections told by each of four siblings who have seen a fortuneteller to learn the dates of their deaths, the novel explores big questions which can never really be answered. The role of choice and destiny, loyalty to self and duty to family and the biggest question of all -- how to live when death is certain. The characters both came alive and kept much hidden from both themselves and the reader, which is where the mystery lives. In the end, there is only magic in many forms and love that keep us together and can even bring the dead back to life after the lights have gone out. I can't recommend this book enough.

I really enjoyed The Immortalists. I found it fascinating how all the siblings led such different lives, and yet everything was tied back to one event. It is not my usual genre to read, and some parts were a little slow for me. Overall, I found the characters very interesting and I loved each of their stories. Would definitely say this book was a good read!

I cannot possibly say enough good things about this book. I think it will definitely be seeing some awards if it hasn't already. I loved that the characters of the book were all siblings and had their own section to tell their story in. Each one finds out when they will die and their stories are told and intertwined with the rest of the family. The character development and plot lines are amazing and remarkable in this book.

Such a great premise for a book! What would you do, or how would you live your life differently if you knew the date of your death? While I loved the thought process of each of the four members of the Gold family, I wasn't as keen to buy into the way they came to the information about their death date. They learned this through a psychic, and the way each of them dealt with the information was detailed in four sections of the book (one for each child). The whole idea of a psychic was off putting for me, I'm not a believer in any of that way of thinking, but they were children when they came to the information, so I could buy into the story a bit more and give them a pass. What followed from there, while a great story, was a bit weird for me. Without going into any spoiler details, I'll just say that while I could go along with their rationale and their choices (which we are led to believe are the result of knowing their death date), by the time we got through a couple of the siblings I was rolling my eyes a bit at the coincidences. Even though I may not have bought into the prediction part, what I did buy into was the author's writing style, which was smooth, captivating, and without any excessive wordiness to get her point across. Overall a fascinating read, with lovely writing and a wonderful plot. If I could have gotten past my dislike of psychic's, this likely would have been a solid four stars. Read it for the premise and writing, I don't think you will be disappointed.

Wow wow wow!! I loved this book! The story of the Gold siblings captivated me from the beginning. It was fascinating to watch how the proclamations of the psychic affected not only their personalities, but also their life choices. I found the relationships among Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon to be very realistic, and I appreciated how the author dealt with their circumstances with great sensitivity. Pick up a copy of this amazing book - you won't regret it!

This really is an exceptional book. I didn't know anything more about it than the book description and I think I enjoyed it more for that reason. So I'm hesitant to give too much detail about what sets it apart from other works. Well, other than to give a heads up that there is a premiscuous character with some sex scenes in the first section that you might not want to read about in front of your parents, your boss, your priest, your rabbi... that kind of thing. I wasn't expecting it and ended up having an awkward, then comical experience shifting my brain when someone asked me a perfectly professional question at the worst possible time for an interruption. Overall, I think the book is well done and thought-provoking. Would we live our lives differently if we were told exactly how much time we had?

Four young siblings decide to hunt down a gypsy woman and wha they hear will shape the rest of their lives. The book is told from the point of view of each sibling and let us see how the four live their very diffrent lives. I really liked this book and found each part intresting as they covered the very diffrerent situations and experiences of each of the siblings.

This is one of the best books I have read in 2017. Benjamin's storytelling is captivating and thought provoking - I had a hard time putting it down! I enjoyed that the book focused on each of the four siblings, and gave each one a chance to fully develop. It's a unique idea - knowing the day you die, and the siblings cover a wide range of reactions. Benjamin is able to discuss relevant and controversial subjects - both in the past and present. Whether it's AIDS, mental illness, or war, she eloquently approaches the subjects. Of the four siblings, Vayra shows the most growth. Although her section is last, it is the strongest of the four in terms of character development. Whether this is because she had the luxury of living to 88 (or so we assume), or because she is simply the last one standing, I do not know. But when I finished her section (and consequently the book), I actually felt proud of this fictional character for working to overcome her problems. Overall, I give this a 4.7 out of 5.

What a great book! I was hooked from the beginning. Four siblings visit a fortune teller and it changes the trajectory of their lives. The 'what ifs' are numerable. I would definitely recommend this one! Thanks First to Read for my advance copy.

The Immortalists makes you question how you would live if you knew (or suspected) when you were going to die. Is a prophecy more likely to come true if you believe in it? How many of our choices are really our own? Is a short life any less fulfilling than a long one? It all depends on how you live, as demonstrated by the four very different Gold siblings. Each of them interprets the prediction based on his/her unique worldview and makes choices accordingly. ?? Although the end of one of the four stories was predictable simply due to the setting, there is a constant uncertainty lurking behind what you think you know that pushes you to keep reading. Just like the Golds, the reader may either believe or reject the woman’s predictions but can never be completely sure of what will or will not happen. Plus, it is not the end of each story that matters most but the events leading up to it. Chloe Benjamin’s writing is subtle and descriptive and makes the reader empathize with all of the main characters, despite their different personalities and choices. She does not always clearly denote the chronology of events, but it comes together as you read on. She focuses on family dynamics and the decision between making choices for ourselves or for others. Benjamin uses flashbacks frequently to create a clearer image of the family’s history. Rather than explicitly discussing the theme of mortality, Benjamin shows how the idea pervades the lives and thoughts of the characters. I think Benjamin did an expert job of making a mystical idea seem plausible in everyday life and of connecting four very separate and unique stories to create a cohesive narrative. 5/5 stars

Four siblings visit a fortune teller when they are children and learn the date they will die. Can she tell the future? Is it self-determination? As the narrative switches between the siblings, we learn how this one moment affects their entire life. Well told with thought-provoking reflections on life and death. I highly recommend this one!

Benjamin creates an intriguing blend of sibling love and rivalry amidst an intricate weaving of cultural diversity against the background of significant historical events. Gertie and Saul provided their offspring with opportunities for unlimited growth. As the 4 learn of their expected dates of death they are pushed to make their own unique marks on the world within the time constraints each has been dealt. The tales of each sibling show how far they spread their wings and carry on with their own legacies. Benjamin calls each of us to question where we come from and where we are going in the constraints we have been dealt. She challenges us all to become “ fearless.”

Mortality is something we all face, but our perspective on dying shapes the way we may live our lives. Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists depicts the lives of four siblings' lives after learning the date of their deaths. In 1969, the four Gold children seek out a mystical woman they've heard about who can tell you when you'll die. In the years following their learning about their impending deaths, they each live their lives either in accordance with or in spite of the fortunes they received. The youngest, Simon, ventures out to San Francisco to embrace his sexuality and freedom from his mother's dependence; Klara refines her magic act, has a daughter, and starts performing in Vegas; Daniel becomes a military doctor and finds a sense of stability in his work; and Varya takes care of their mother before pursuing her study of longevity.  With a premise that offers a lot of possibility in ways to explore it, the narrative is in reality more of a character study of each of the children rather than an exploration of the premise, which seems to have been pushed to the background and instead used as an introduction to the familial workings of the Golds; it could be argued that the character study of each of the Gold children was the way in which readers were presented with their reactive behavior toward knowing their end, but it didn't quite read that way as them knowing the day of their death didn't quite come across through their actions. The narrative moved slowly and had a sense of predictability that made it easy to put the book down for periods of time. I did, however, find that the symmetry in how the Gold children entered and exited the world had a certain poetry to it.  Overall, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

I found this book to be so interesting, fascinated by the choices made by these siblings. Do they choose differently because they know how long they have or are their choices made for them by the people that they are? Each is given their own time, but they only come into prominence as the one before dies. This is such an interesting look at family. My personal favorite story was Varya's, hopefully she will use her time to change and become different. I do believe in change and I believe in Varya.

I found the Immortalists an engrossing read. The story opens in the Lower East Side in 1969, with four siblings, the Golds, ages 7-13, seeking out a psychic who is reported to have the ability to tell people the exact date of their death. When they find her apartment, they each meet with her individually, and when they reassemble they do not share their new found fortunes, though as we learn, their lives will be shaped by them. The book follows each sibling in four sections. First we see the youngest, Simon, run away with his sister Klara to San Francisco, to live an openly gay life. Klara works to realize her dream of becoming a magician/daredevil. Daniel, the older brother, becomes a doctor, and when we begin to follow him, works for the military, approving or waiving recruits for service. And the oldest, Varya, trains and works as a research biologist who tries to find the keys to longevity. While each tries to realize his/her dreams and aspirations, each is also chained to the prophesy of the psychic. And while each is mortal, we will find that each leaves behind loved ones to carry on their memory and story. Interesting read. I am definitely looking forward to future releases by this author.

The Immortalists absolutely rocked me. This is one of those books that grabs you, and refuses to let go until it’s completely upended you, turned you inside out, and left you a steaming pile of emotion. What would you do if you knew the date of your death? 4 siblings are about to find out. But is the woman who gives them this information really a seer? Or is the idea of the date she gives them such a powerful motivator that it turns them all into walking self-fulfilling prophecies? It’s been quite some time since I read a book like this one. It’s reinvigorated my love of the written word. She weaves the story, using words sparingly, but in such a fashion as to make the story pop off the page. It’s verbal painting, a symphony of sentences that blend together seamlessly. I don’t know if you can tell, but I really loved this book. Simon, the youngest child, runs away to San Francisco with his “lost cause” sister. He’s a gay Jewish teenager and has never felt right in his own skin with his family. Klara, his sister is really the only one he’s ever been himself around. Through Simon we get a glimpse at life in the late 70s and early 80s in San Francisco, tantalizing peeks into ballet, the inner struggle of dealing with your own sexuality when the majority of the rest of the world calls it a sin, and the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. Its an uncomfortable, painful read, but also beautiful and moving. Klara has always been drawn to magic. She’s a genius at sleight of hand, but she’s always been drawn to the more death defying acts. Perhaps because of, or in spite of, the date death she feels she’s running toward. No one in her family has ever really depended on her, and she’s dealing with the enormous grief she tries to drown in alcohol for the role her decisions played in shaping the lives of her family. Through Klara we get an idea of how alluring it can be to relinquish control to something else, and the delusions it can cause, even to the point of fulfilling prophecies. Daniel, the oldest boy, has been the family rock for so long. He becomes a doctor, marries a nice young mostly Jewish girl, and helps take care of the mother left behind by the younger siblings. As the years pass though, his bitterness and regret over estranged siblings consumes his thoughts, to the point that he believes if he can just find the seer and make her admit to her wrong doing, he will stop the cycle of death, stop his feelings of guilt for having instigated the visit to the seer. Varya. The oldest girl and seemingly coldest of the bunch. With her research into aging, and the gift of being told she will live a long, long life. The last Gold child left. Did she create the space between her and her siblings to protect herself from the loss she fervently believed in? Is her OCD something that would have developed on its own with her Jewish upbringing and the rituality that went into her faith? Or did it develop from a staunch belief that if she could just adhere to her rituals, she could prevent the loss of all of her siblings? I started the section on Varya thinking that she was the most one-dimensional. The one I could least relate with. I was completely blown away by how full and rich Varya became. There’s absolutely nothing shortchanged about her by the end of the book. Chloe Benjamin has created something truly special with this book. If I didn’t know better, I would think I was truly reading the thoughts and feelings of 4 different people. 4 unique, individualized characters that have suffered through the realness and rawness of life. I absolutely adored this story and will be putting it on my hardback shelf of oft revisited stories.


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