Book Club: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

This pick kept getting shifted around due to some other interests of later planned book club selections! However, this was a great read to end our year with as a group. Between the time of starting and meeting up this month, it seemed that we were whispering out what was happening and the fate of each of the siblings.

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.

I equated the storyline with the movie, Big Fish. The latter though, was filled with living your best life up until your time was up, which is what Ewan McGregor’s character, Ed Bloom, did! In The Immortalists though, paranoia and trying to defy one’s fate led to that outcome anyway. A lot of us predicted the fate for Simon and Klara almost immediately, given the time and relationship they had. We felt Simon’s story had the most content and time spent on him even though he was the youngest to meet his end. We were expecting tragic ends to all of the siblings but it was kind of calming knowing that they would pass eventually, it was just the matter of how that needed further exploration. On the other hand, it’s like a scary movie, you know something’s coming and any indication (no matter how right or wrong you are) that something will happen, you are on the edge of your seat OR shielding your eyes haha.

The structure of the novel was fantastic: in a way, they were 4 short stories with a preface BUT they were also unified since characters and plot elements intertwined throughout. Each character lived on in a way in the other siblings’ stories.

I go back and forth of whether I would want to know my fate (or fortune for that matter). There is a peace with being blissfully unaware! I feel that I would end up in the same mindsets as the siblings.

Anywho, here are some notable quotes I’d like to share:

her brother’s departure was the bomb that blew them apart,…She was the one who believed in the prophecies; she was the one who managed his trajectory

“You cleared the decks: you had no husband, no kids. You could have done anything. But you’re just like your monkeys, locked up and underfed. The point is that you have to live a lesser life in order to live a longer one. Don’t you see that? The point is that you’re willing to make that bargain, you have made that bargain, but to what end? At what costs? Of course, your monkeys never had the choice

Up next, we are kicking off 2019 with Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

What are your book club picks for the new year?


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