Friday, 2 February 2018

Review:The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

Stacey's review 3 of 5 stars

*If you are looking for a true fantasy novel this is probably not for you. There is a hint of magical realism (the premise) but not much beyond.*
**edited- after a day's reflection I'm wondering if part of my disconnect with this book was that I listened to it rather than read it.  Nothing against the narration as it was very good.  But I have wondered before if I would like a book more in physical form.  Maybe I'll go back one day and test the theory!**

If you knew the date of your own death, would it change the way you lived your life?
This is the very intriguing premise of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. The story follows the four Gold children who, for something daring and foolish to do, sneak away to visit a Seer near their NYC apartment in 1969 to find out separately the date of their death. They are told by the mystic to never reveal that date to anyone else. The story then follows each sibling in four parts over the course of their lives (we must assume at the beginning that the prediction is true) and stimulates the reader to consider how knowing their fate might contribute to how they live their lives. Each section was interesting and morbid at the same time since we are all waiting to see how/when it will happen for each character. One death is quite predictable early on and two others were just bizarre for me. Then ending was the best part of the book, so I am glad I stuck it out.

What I liked: The audio- Maggie Hoffman did a great job narrating. The premise- could be very interesting had it really held a message or came together in an existential way. The ending- best part of the book. The writing- nice piece of literary fiction. Well written.

What I didn't love: I wish I felt more of the connection between the siblings that the summary proposes. I feel we are 'told' about this more than felt it throughout the story. One big problem I had is how disconnected the siblings were- each one sort of self- centered and resentful of the others until it was too late. The characters- I'm all for unlikeable characters here and there but I really didn't like any of the Gold siblings all that much. I would have liked to connected with someone. I assume the author was proposing the idea that they acted how they did because they believed the prophecy but it still felt strange to see the drastic choices some made. I also found it unbelievable that these siblings never shared their death dates with each other, other than a vague reference by Simon? Hmmm.
I know I am in the minority with this review- I was underwhelmed. I'm glad many others love it.

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