Review: The Immortalists

January 10, 2018 book review, family, fiction, Putnam 4

  • Written by:  Chloe Benjamin
  • Published by:  Putnam Books, January 9,2018
  • Length:  352 pages
  • Source:  Digital galley via Edelwiess with permission from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.


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.

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, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds. (publisher)

My Thoughts:

This book is the story of four children, and when given the dates of their death from a fortune teller, how it impacts each of them.

The longer part of the book begins with the passing of their father Saul Gold, a tailor and clothing designer.  His children are now teen to young adult in age, and as they grieve their father’s death they all begin to explore their immortality, and how they will explore and spend their lives.

Simon is just 16 as he boldly runs off this his sister Klara, his life is best described as risky and carefree.  Klara is mesmerized by magic and the art of illusion.  Daniel seems to me the most honest and realistic of the four, but his careful nature impact much more than just himself. Varya’s research and dedication to work  cover much deeper secrets and obsessions she wants to hide.

Chloe Benjamin works her own magic in detailing each of the Gold offspring.  Her details of life in the Castro area of San Francisco in the late 70’s and early 80’s is brilliant and honest and also sad.  In a time when gay men had begun to feel open and free, it was also the beginning of the yet unnamed AIDS crisis.  Her depiction of this time is both emotionally and historically correct.  The intricacies of the world of magic and performing the tricks and illusions were fascinating.  I loved the historical and insider look.  As Benjamin dug deeper into each sibling and his or her own psyche the details were amazing.  They were all clearly cognizant of their date of death prediction, and yet they all managed it in unique ways.  I saw Daniel as balanced, but deep down I began to see the emotions he had been dealing with all his life.  Varya also had dove into her research on longevity, how to give humans even longer lives, and she had limited herself to such a small personal life, she was missing so very much, and attempting to hide too.

This book will mesmerize you, and take you along such a long and often difficult journey.  You will question your own choices, and think about your own mortality.  I can’t recommend it enough, it will haunt me and stay with me for a long time.

4 Responses to “Review: The Immortalists”

  1. Michelle

    I can’t say that I had the same reaction. I ADORED Simon’s story. To me, that was the most profound. The other siblings were okay. I never connected with them as much as I should have. I also think the story is dangerously similar to Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End, which I think is better written and more haunting/enjoyable than Egan’s.

    • Anita

      I’ll have to look into the Silvera book. I think I was absorbed by the overwhelming thoughts of each sibling as to their impending deaths.

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