Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 

Release Date: January 9, 2018

I am so, so excited. This book is being released TOMORROW!

Thank you to Edelweiss, Putnam Books, and Chloe Benjamin for the privilege of previewing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists is the story of the Gold children, who are the offspring of Jewish immigrants, and their visit to a “fortune teller” one hot and sticky summer day in New York City in the summer of 1969.

Usually, fortune tellers predict information about a person’s life, give advice about personal matters or address evil matters or curses. But this fortune teller is very different. She tells each customer their date of death.

Immortalists 1For Varya – 13 years old, Daniel – 11 years old, Klara – 9 years old, and Simon – 7 years old, a few minutes with the fortune teller has lasting effects, changing the course of each sibling’s trajectory in life and dominating how their lives end.

Immortalists 2

This unique book really stands out like a blinking beacon in the sea of literary fiction. The premise is fascinating. I read this book over 3 nights. When I was not reading this book, I spent time thinking about each sibling, the decisions that they made, and the resulting outcomes. How different their lives would end up if they chose different paths.

Immortalists 3

What I loved about this book:

The thought provoking premise. I was constantly thinking about this book when I was not reading it because of the philosophical questions that it generated about destiny, fate, love, family, parent relationships, sibling relationships and religion. What would you do if you discovered your date of death? Would you believe the fortune teller? Would you fight the prediction, or would it become your destiny? Would you change how your live your life, knowing when it might end? Death is an unknown topic that fascinates everyone. I was asking my spouse, my work colleagues, my relatives, and my children to get their perspective on these questions. It spurred many interesting conversations, even with my school-age children.

The family story. I love stories about complicated families and their ups and downs. Family dynamics are constantly shifting as time progresses. The parent and sibling relationships in this book are very relatable. We love our family, but they can get on our last nerve. They know our strengths, faults, and foibles. They can be our biggest supporter and ally, or an enemy. This book reminds us that family is always such as important aspect of one’s life, especially at times of crisis and dark moments, and that keeping big secrets from your family is never a good thing.

The structure. The book is divided into 4 sections, one for each sibling, so the reader spends about a quarter of the book with each of them as the main POV’s perspective. Chloe Benjamin tells a unique and insightful story about each sibling, and how that fateful day with the fortune teller impacts Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya in so many different ways.

Historical aspects. There are many references to historical events and pop culture. Summer of Love, drugs, the Stonewall riots, the 80s AIDS epidemic, the start of magic in Las Vegas, post 9/11 references, and the advanced medicines to treat today’s diseases.

Beautiful writing. Chloe Benjamin takes controversial topics such as religion, fate, destiny, and magic, and tackles them through relatable, conflicted characters with descriptive emotions that allow the reader to feel what each character is going through. Chloe Benjamin’s writing made me feel like I really knew these people.

The settings. I loved the many settings, especially in New York City, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

The *only* ding (drawback) that I have on the book are the few gay sex scenes in one sibling’s section that were a tad too descriptive for me personally so I skipped them. Aside from this, I feel that this book is a strong candidate for being studied in high school literature classes due to its philosophical questions, complex themes and the colorful discussion that will result.

Side note: This book has already been optioned for a TV series!

11 thoughts

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