In 1969, the Gold family lives on the Lower East Side in New York City. Life is normal, boring even, until the four children hear a neighborhood rumor that a local gypsy can tell you the exact date you will die, and decide to see for themselves. After all, what could it hurt? It takes some time, but they finally track down where the woman lives. They must see her alone, so one by one, they enter her shadowy apartment and listen to her words. They never tell each other what she says, but they never forget their dates.
Simon escapes the trap of familial expectations to find love as a dancer in San Francisco. Klara, who has dreamed of magic her whole life, finds reality overpowering, and becomes a magician in Las Vegas. Daniel has a steady future as an Army doctor, but finds the expectations of his job may be more than he’s willing to give. And Varya becomes a researcher in longevity, seeking to unlock the key to a long life, despite the dreariness of her own.
All of them are shaped by the gypsy’s words, and seek to prove her prediction wrong, but sometimes fate is inescapable.
Let me say, first of all, that I think The Immortalists simply wasn’t a good fit for me. I was very intrigued by the premise, and I love family-saga stories, so it seemed a good match. However, the book is told in four segments, one for each character, and I never felt like I really connected with any of them. Briefly, yes, but not enough to truly enjoy the novel.
Benjamin’s writing is lovely and evocative; I could practically smell the streets of San Francisco and feel the heat of the spotlights, but I never connected emotionally with the characters. I did read this quickly, so perhaps, in a different frame of mind, my experience would have been different.
Chloe Benjamin is an award-winning author from San Francisco, California. The Immortalists is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Putnam/Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin”
Great review! I liked the book, but I understand your perspective. The basic plot could have turned into so much more, but the author chose to write about ordinary people living ordinary lives and none were happy. I think more happiness was in order. The writing was stellar though.
Thanks! I thought the writing was fantastic, I just didn’t really connect with any of the characters. By the time I got to that point, they died. Thanks for commenting.
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