The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy
Warning: Death, suicide, sad stuff
In New York City during the summer of 1969, the four Gold siblings are on the verge of self-awareness when a mystical woman who has the ability to tell you the day one will die, and the siblings cannot resist temptation. They sneak away from the safety of their parents to find their fortunes. The book follows the lives and each as their day comes closer and closer, each trying to either prove or disprove the woman.
This book is amazing, and I can hardly believe it took me so long to actually pick this book up! Chloe Benjamin has the highest praise that I can give to her because The Immortalists is like a perfected curated meal that leaves you completely satisfied at the end. Each piece melds into the other seamlessly, the main characters ebb and flow with time and each other throughout the story, and it is satisfying because there is a visible change at the end of the book. It is wholly and magnificently wonderful.
Benjamin embraces themes that challenge all humans: how life is so unpredictable and how can we find solace in this fact.
One of the strong points in the books are the four/five main characters who all have their strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and conflicts within and outside of themselves. Varya, Daniel, Klara, Simon, the siblings, and I would even consider Gertie (their mother) one of the main characters as well.
Their stories all start out at the same point, but each has their own unique path that ultimately ends at the same destination.
Gertie is an underrated character who is a constant for her children throughout the book. In the first two parts, Benjamin crafted it so that the reader will feel frustrated with, but in the end, she becomes the center of the family, keeping the traditions alive, and seems to be the uniting force between all of the siblings.
She carries a strong feminist undertone that is a driving force because she never slows on that, but you can see how in the period when she was growing up, women were striving for that freedom but some settled into motherhood while continuing to root for the women out there on the front line. Once she even rebukes Varya, the eldest, for seeming like she is lost after giving her everything that a mother possibly could.
Gertie also shows how relationships with religion and faith change throughout your lifetime. She unites her children in their Jewish customs and faith for the high holidays, showing that the family can still be one after the trauma that they had endured.
Simon finds himself while saving himself from living a bland life that would have kept him safe, but fighting against the restraints. Klara creates an illusion of life that she has yearned to show the world, and when she does, they all sit with their jaws dropped on the floor. Daniel works for a cause that is neither good nor bad, finding relief there after 9/11. And Varya wants to find a way to make humans live longer, sacrificing her whole self for something that she believes in.
The pace of the book is one aspect of it that I did enjoy, mainly because it never seemed to become stagnate, the story continued to push onwards with a driving force that did not let the reader put the book down. As a result, I am a smidge behind on my housework and other chores, but it was worth it.
The language that Benjamin uses throughout the book is perfectly suited for the story. Historical fiction stories can easily turn into a book of just description which will most likely bore the reader. That is not how this book is though! The detail and imagery definitely are there when needed, but it is a character focused book.
I am giving The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 4 out of 5 stars. I became so attached to each of the characters that I did not want to see them die, and when they did, their deaths shook me enough that I had to put the book down and remind myself to breathe.
I highly recommend picking up this book because it’s a quick read that makes you think, all the while it enraptures you with the characters. If anything else, read it because the author is flat out awesome and has two really adorable cats!
Keep on reading until next time!
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