The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In 1969, Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon clamber through the heat of a New York City summer in search of a mysterious fortune teller, who they’ve heard can tell them the exact date of their deaths. What follows is each of their ever-advancing life journeys, and an insight into how we view death when we can look it in the face.
Chloe Benjamin’s novel broke my heart and salvaged it with literary duct tape time and time again. The story is refreshingly straightforward in its format: each of the four parts are a story of each of the four siblings. We know they’ll die; there is no trick or plot twist or fateful battle here. But what we observe is how they live.
Each of the siblings live vastly different lives, and this is such a testament to Benjamin’s mastery of character development. It is a beautiful thing to see the differences, disagreements, and devotion that these siblings share. This representation of the wary bond between siblings is such a fierce truth. They all have different ideas of what it means to be a part of the Gold family, and they must navigate their expectations of each other carefully.
I fell head over heels for Simon’s carefree journey, and as he hurtled toward his destiny, I hoped against hope that his innocence would win out. When the magic in Klara’s heart overwhelmed her mind, I wanted to argue with the universal forces at work. When Daniel let his resentment of their youthful experience with the fortune teller consume him, I felt swift anger, and when Varya finally accepted her own humanity, my head swirled with appreciation for both her loss and their strength.
My only wish is that I could’ve spent more time with the imaginative and passionate characters of Klara and Simon. As the novel weaves through their stories, we advance toward Daniel and Varya, the most rational of the siblings, and I found myself longing for the youthful light of the youngest pair.
The Immortalists is a masterpiece of literary fiction; it is magical, but rooted deeply in immense truths. She reshapes our view of death and, more importantly, obliterates our definition of life. Her character study asks what we would do if we knew the date of our death, and encourages us to think carefully about our answer. Me? I want to love like Simon, believe like Klara, stand up for myself like Daniel, and accept my humanity like Varya.