Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Historical Fiction
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
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.
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain
The Immortalist gives us a closer look into the lives of The Golds, a loving family of six, who lived on the Lower East Side of New York. Set in the 1970s, the story begins with the Gold children deciding to meet a mysterious woman who claims to know the exact date of death of any individual. This information is what decides their course of life. The four siblings- Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya continue with their lives, each one believing that this is some kind of joke.
After their father’s untimely death, the responsibilities of the family falls upon Simon- the youngest. But one day he decides to run away from home with his sister Klara. Partly because he liked men and San Fransico was open to gay people at that time. Some part of his brain also believed that if he was to die young (as the mysterious lady had suggested), he might as well live his life. Klara moves out because she aspires to be like her grandmother and take up magic as a career and no one in her family stands by her. Categorized as reckless and determined over and over again, Klara is an extremely strong woman who is strong-willed. She is also a responsible sister and takes care of her baby brother- Simon. Daniel and Varya, on the other hand, are left with taking care of their widowed and ill mother and they get busy planning their life accordingly.
|“Klara has always known she’s meant to be a bridge: between reality and illusion, the present and the past, this world and the next. She just has to figure out how.”|
Over the years, we see the siblings take up different professions: Simon learns Ballet, Klara becomes a street magician and later an illusionist, Daniel gets to be a doctor with the military and Varya, the eldest becomes a scientist. There’s also a grieving mother, who is trying not to get lost in the sands of time. A mother, who takes solace in religion and prayers to maintain her sanity.
“He believes in bad choices; he believes in bad luck. And yet the memory of the woman on Hester Street is like a minuscule needle in his stomach, something he swallowed long ago and which floats, undetectable, except for moments when he moves a certain way and feels a prick.”
This book encompasses the concept that every decision we have ever made somehow manages to take us closer to our destiny (death, in this case. This is an extremely thought-provoking story, a story that talks about dreams and struggles, mistakes and regrets.
One of the important attributes of Benjamin’s storytelling skills is how effectively she captures emotions. The emotions are left bare and raw and the characters are exposed. It’s like she lets the readers decide and judge the characters. The plot makes us hate and then fall in love with each of the characters, a plot that gives us reasons so as to why a character behaves in a certain way. There’s also a slight sense of loss throughout the book, so much is lost along the way- dreams, sacrifices, hopes, love.
And then there’s a beautiful ending. I had expected the climax to be very flat and sad, but Benjamin has finished the story gracefully. Another thing that I really liked about the plot was the attachment I felt with the world as well as characters. Everything was tied together with subtle facts about the way of life during those years and about the different professions and their background stories. It helped draw a clearer picture of the life of each of the four siblings.
An extremely emotional, intriguing and fascinating story, this book will be close to my heart for a long time. Highly Recommended.
Another Favourite read 🙂