Title: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Literary
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada
Book provided by PRHC
Review: When I first glimpsed the gorgeous cover of THE IMMORTALISTS and read the startling synopsis I knew I wanted to read this book. A beautifully written literary tragedy about the choices made when you know the date of your death. Will the Gold siblings – Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya die on their respective dates because it is fate or because the prediction shapes the life choices they make? Is the psychic’s taboo information a gift or a curse?
Written about each of the siblings in order of their death, the first half of the book is about dynamic Simon and Klara, whom stole the show, followed by the more conventional Daniel and Varya. I was taken by Simon’s story of a teen boy coming out in gay San Francisco in the 1970’s. He has unabashed sex with lots of men, uses drugs, and becomes a dancer at a gay club. He ultimately succumbs to AIDS, or ‘gay cancer’ as it was known at the time, on his predicted day. Klara accompanies Simon to San Francisco to study magic. She perfects her act and moves to Las Vegas, marrying her stage partner, Raj and together they have a daughter named Ruby. Daniel becomes a doctor in the military and craves a stable suburban lifestyle. He confronts the psychic fraudster who delivers each siblings’ fate. Varya, given the longest to live, studies longevity in Rhesus monkeys and avoids risks and disallows herself to ‘live’ to cheat death.
The juxtaposition between Varya studying genetic longevity and Klara’s magic act that can’t bring Simon back is the ultimate coup de grace. THE IMMORTALISTS is a heartbreaking look inside a family full of regrets, quarrels, resentment, and coping with alcoholism, depression, and OCD.