The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The Immortalists
by
Chloe Benjamin

Rating:

In 1969, four siblings sneak through their New York neighborhood to visit a mysterious woman on Hester Street. The Gold children hear she’s a fortune teller and that she will tell them the dates of their deaths. Varya is thirteen. Daniel is eleven. Klara is nine and Simon is seven. Should they believe?

They keep their information private, but the dates stick in their minds. Nine years later, their father dies, and things change as the siblings begin their adult lives. Do their choices reflect these dates? Are they in control of their futures?

The Immortalists follows the lives of the four Gold children as their dates loom. Simon and Klara make choices that split their family. Varya and Daniel try to carry on and care for their mother. Benjamin tells their stories in four parts, with a concluding tie-in that connects past and present.

The story begins with a suggestion of some sort of magic that will explain the mystery of life and death as the adult children struggle to balance this idea with their Jewish family’s traditional teachings. Klara’s decision to become a magician seems to promise the reader that her story will reveal the bridge between the living and the dead. But the other siblings’ stories are not connected in that way.

While The Immortalists is a very readable story, I did not care for its darkness. The idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy is certainly interesting and held promise for a good book. And the cover suggests a very different story. I found it unrealistic and depressing. Some parts seemed over the top and unbalanced and the characters were hard to like. Perhaps their visit to the fortune teller weighed too heavy on them and made them unknowable.

Maybe I went into it thinking it was something else or maybe it just wasn’t for me. But of course, every reader is different. To help you decide whether to pick it up, see what readers on Goodreads and Amazon have to say.

Have you read The Immortalists? What did you think?

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23 thoughts on “The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

  1. That’s too bad – it sounds interesting with the fortune teller and all the mystery and magic that could have come from that. I’m reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky now and loving it in case you’re looking for a better one.

    1. Yes the book has gotten a lot of interest. I loved the cover too. I prefer something that isn’t so dark. I’ll have to look into Beneath a Scarlet Sky. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Hi Jill, it’s hard for me to post something like that because in the end I thought it was well written. I just don’t like reading stories that are so depressing. Thanks for your comments.

    1. Yes, that was strange to me. I keep wondering why she didn’t just tell the kids they would lead long lives. I wonder what I would have done with information like that, as a kid. Most likely, I would have forgotten about it. And I’m not sure at age 7 or 9, I would have understood anything anyway. I think the story would have worked better if the characters learned the dates as adults. I don’t know. It just wasn’t my thing. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. I haven’t read it, although it caught my eye. The reviews on Goodreads are certainly mixed (then again, isn’t that always the case?) I just finished a book that dived into family drama and dynamics, and since I don’t tend to lean toward that type of novel, I likely won’t read this one. Thanks for another great review!

    1. Hey Carrie – this book went a different way for me. I thought it was going to include magical realism, but the author only teased at the idea and in the end, there was no real magic. I don’t like when I don’t like a book. I usually don’t review those, but this was somewhere in the middle. It was well-written and readable, but the story was just so depressing, I couldn’t give it more than 3 bookmarks, though as you say, there are many who loved it. So maybe it’s just a matter of taste…thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Sigh… and another gorgeous cover is wasted. I was holding out on this one waiting for your review. The children growing up under a mystery reminded me of The Rules of Magic, which I loved, but I don’t want depressing. Great review, Barb.

    1. Thanks Tracy – others have recommended The Rules of Magic – I’ll have to take a look. I don’t like depressing either! I hate to give a book a negative review though. I appreciate your support.

  4. Great review! I’ve read others as well where the reviewer felt that the book turned out to be much different than they were led to believe based on the initial premise.

  5. I’m reading this now and I don’t mind the darkness. But it reads like less a novel and more interconnected short stories. I love it, but not necessarily the way the story is told.

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