Hey guys, Happy Easter Sunday!
I apologize for my late posting of this weeks Sunday Reads and book review but I have been so busy this weekend with all the Easter festivities.
This weeks book, and book review, is The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I walked into my local Barnes and Noble store and I was looking for a few novels to start reading. The book cover and the title caught my attention, the fact that it was on sale was also a bonus too.
This is my first book by Chloe Benjamain, I hope you enjoy my take on it.
THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin
Overview – Spoiler Alert : Low
“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.
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.” -Book overview located in the book
Review – Spoiler Alert : Low
The Immortalists follows the lives of the four Gold children after their visit to a fortune teller on Hester Street in 1969. One by one, they are told the date they will die and find themselves unable to break free of this knowledge which in turn shapes their lives over the following five decades.
Simon runs away to San Francisco with his sister Klara in the late 1970’s. He finally has the chance to pursue his sexual pleasures, and ends up becomes a dancer in a nightclub and trains with a ballet troupe. Klara continues to practice magic and trains to perform difficult acrobatics and illusions for her show “The Immortalists”. Daniel becomes a military doctor who eventually becomes obsessed with finding the fortune teller they met as children back in New York. Varya is a scientist and researcher who studies longevity in monkeys, has OCD, and worries about everything.
Will they all die on the date they were told because it is their destiny, or because the prediction draws them into an altered pattern of life choices?
The Immortalists is extremely thought provoking because it makes you wonder if the knowledge of our mortality make us truly live our life to the fullest or does it makes us fearful, guilty, and seek to outwit death? Is it destiny or choice, reality or illusion?
This is a story of family, loss, secrets, regrets, sibling relationships, death and above all else, about life.
Commentary – Spoiler Alert : Medium
The book starts off in 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side where four adolescents – Varya(aged 13), Daniel(aged 11), Klara(aged 9) and Simon(aged 7) set out to meet a lady who can predict the future. They saved up their allowances and set off to meet her and they all leave being told the date they will die.
The book is divided into four parts. Part One is entitled “You’d Dance, Kid” and mention is made that it spans the years 1978-1982 and its about Simon.
It starts off with the children’s father Saul dying and Varya and Daniel who are both away at school return home for the funeral. Klara graduates high school and convinces Simon to drop out and move with her to San Francisco. Simon leaves without telling his mother. Upon arriving, he is in awe with the city. He engages in his first one night stand, ends up working as a dancer at the club downstairs to help tide them over, and joins a ballet dance group. At ballet he meets Robert who in time becomes his partner.
On Sundays Simon meets Klara for dinner. On this occasion she shares with him the information she found about their family. Their grandmother, also named Klara, was in a circus and she did an act called the “jaws of life”. Klara reveals to her brother she plans to incorporate a similar act into her magic show. When he asks her what she will call her act, she replies – “The Immortalist”.
Time goes by and Simon continues to live a life of reckless passionate pursuits. He falls ill and is admitted in hospital. During this time he shares with Robert meeting the fortune teller in New York, and shares with Klara the date he was told he would die. Klara tells him, while he never told her the exact date but only mentioned it was a young age – that’s why she pushed him to go with her to San Francisco. She wanted him to live the life he always wanted. He thanks her. And as the fortune teller predicted he dies on the exact day.
Part Two is entitled “Proteus” and it spans 1982-1991 and it’s about Klara, the next in line.
Klara is performing and doing her Immortalist act around town. At one act in particular she runs into Raj. It’s been ten years but Raj was one of the first people she met in San Francisco. They end up dating. Raj helps her with her show and before you know it he is apart of the show.
Klara has been making trips back home, but without Raj as they couldn’t afford two tickets. She mentions in to Varya that she thinks they might get married. She’s pregnant, stops her drinking and gives birth to a baby girl they call Rubina, Ruby for short.
Months go by and they haven’t performed. They need the money so Raj suggests the hit the road and head to Vegas. They buy a motor home and hit the road. Eventually they get to Vegas as they made stops in other towns first. When they eventually get to Vegas they manage to book a show at the Mirage.
Klara had been reflecting a lot, about growing up, Simon, the fortune teller, and magic. But she also has been drinking a lot too. She starts to think that if the woman is right, there has to be magic in the world. And since she has been communicating with Simon maybe can be the bridge that crosses the two worlds.
It’s the opening night of their show. Klara often assumed she would die doing the “jaws of life” act. She has been waiting for something to prove the fortune tellers prophecies. But she realizes it’s up to her, she must prove it herself.
Part Three is entitled “The Inquisition”. It covers the period of 1991-2006 and it’s about Daniel. This section starts off with Daniel marrying Mira and how they have progressed as a couple. Mira works at a university and Daniel a military doctor.
Daniel meets Eddie, a FBI agent who was investigating his sisters death. He presents a case he is working on which is possibly linked to Klara’s death.
Daniel invites Raj and Ruby to spend thanksgiving with them – he has not seen them in a while. He enjoys his time with Ruby despite butting heads with Raj the night before they leave.
Now, more than ever he is looking into the possibility of Eddie being right about his sisters death and possibly Simon and many others. He seeks out the fortune teller to get answers and learn the truth.
Part Four is entitled “Place of Life”. It spans the years 2006-2010 and is about Varya. This section starts off by telling us about Varya and the work that she does at the Drake Institute. She is then introduced to a young journalist called Luke who will be writing a newspaper article on the work Varya is doing on ‘longevity’.
Varya gets a blast from the past, her outlook on life has changed and she has new and renewed meaning.
This is definitely one of those books that you definitely want to finish in one sitting. The first two parts of the book which are about Simon and Klara respectively is the most engaging and interesting parts for me. Overall the book was a good read.