The Magic of “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin

“Life isn’t about just defying death. It’s also about defying yourself, about insisting on transformation. As long as you can transform, you cannot die.”

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. (Goodreads)

Beautifully written and unputdownable, The Immortalists is a highly educated novel that touches major themes such as sexuality and gender, family ties, war and even suicide. It blurs the lines between magic and reality, life and death, faith and illusion. It starts light and sweet, but then it really builds up towards the middle, until I was no longer able to look away — just like a good magic trick.

“She understands, too, the loneliness of parenting, which is the loneliness of memory—to know that she connects a future unknowable to her parents with a past unknowable to her child.”

One of the strongest mortal ties in existence is the one we all have with our family, and the novel beautifully portrays a complex familial relationship that is so familiar and true that it makes their tragedy all the more heartbreaking.

“The power of words. They weaseled under door crevices and through keyholes. They hooked into invididuals and wormed through generations.”

I tend to think that the childhood of the Gold children was stolen from them by the act of knowing “the day they will die” from a fortune teller–and that for me is one of the greatest crimes in the world. For any human to be faced with the reality of their own mortality, to live with a ticking clock is no way to live. I have read from one of Terry Pratchett’s books that one of the greatest powers of man is his ability to forget, and I couldn’t agree more. I would HATE to live my life always thinking of its expiration date. Having an ending makes everything more precious, but thoughts about death can easily turn this appreciation to dread.

“She knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.”

I learned a lot of things from reading this book–one is about Jewish families and tradition. The culture is so fascinating and their stories inspiring. I also can’t believe AIDS was discovered and learned about only in the 80’s. Now I understand better why there is still a stigma about it. It’s a continuing fight. Stories of immigration and oppression due to wars was also touched lightly but powerfully. We can learn so much from our history.

“The cost of loneliness is high, she knows, but the cost of loss is higher.”

The novel is filled with real and fleshed out characters that lives on long after you turn the last page. The Gold children felt like family to me. My favorite of course was Klara, with her magic tricks and broken heart. She made the world a better place by making normal people forget reality even just for a little while. She raises the curtains that veil our eyes from seeing the infinite possibilities of the universe.

This mesmerizing book truly made me believe that magic can be found even in the most mundane of realities.

“The very best magic tricks do not subtract from reality. They add.”

Overall Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Chloe Benjamin

Chloe Benjamin is the author of THE IMMORTALISTS, a New York Times Bestseller, #1 Indie Next Pick for January 2018, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, #1 Library Reads pick, and Amazon Best Book of the Month.

Her first novel, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS (Atria, 2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.

Her novels have been translated into over twenty-three languages. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI.

Book Details

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
346 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN 0735213186 (ISBN13: 9780735213180)
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award

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8 thoughts on “The Magic of “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin

  1. Thanks for this review! The story isn’t anything like I thought it would be, and I now want to read it during my July Summer in the City reading theme I do every year; where I read books set, at least in part, in New York City. I am going straight away to add it to Goodreads. 👍✨

    Liked by 1 person

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