The Immortalists explores ideas about life, the choices we make, those that are made for us, and following your dreams. It is a book that swings between joy and sadness as the characters count down the years, months and days until their inevitable death.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
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.
AND MY REVIEW?
I loved this book! The writing is excellent and while a little bleak – it’s such an interesting premise.
Each chapter is told from a different siblings point of view. This splits the book into four acts essentially, with an introduction from Vera when the Gold’s visit the fortune teller. Each sibling covers a decade starting with Simon’s journey of self-discovery in the 80’s and ending with Vera’s self-acceptance in 2016.
While you do feel for each sibling, they are all flawed and could be hard to like at times. However, it was easy to become immersed in each character and feeling their trials and hardships. I enjoyed that the siblings had a Jewish background and loved how this kept the siblings united despite their distance from one another.
It’s you, the reader, who really questions how the siblings are feeling about their awareness of their death. Were they always fated to die on their dates or did they invite death by focussing on their date? Does knowing when you’ll die encourage you to live life to the fullest, or does it cause more harm than good? And how can we live with the knowledge that a certain end is written for us?
While The Immortalists is about the awareness of death it also it also reminds us to love and value the people in our lives. It warns against the power of suggestion and highlights the inescapable burden the characters face. The struggle in knowing their lives have a specific expiration date.
It definitely brings up some thought-provoking questions about fate vs free will.