Review: The Immortalists

The Immortalists - Chloe BenjaminTitle: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: Putnam
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.

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Review: Fierce Kingdom

DB69DF87-035D-43B5-84DB-4D62FBAFD9DFTitle: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Fiction | Suspense & Thriller
Synopsis from Viking
Book provided by Goodreads giveaway

Review: It is rare I read a book and come away from it not having an opinion about it one way or another. That’s how I felt after reading FIERCE KINGDOM. I did not like this book nor did I dislike it. To be upfront this story is very disturbing. Three psychopaths gun down people in a zoo at closing time. Over the course of a three-hour period Joan’s survival instincts kick in to protect she and her 4-year-old son Lincoln.

I read this book in one day – it’s fast paced and kept me flipping the pages. Two parts of this book stood out for me. First, Joan’s quick and creative thinking are instrumental in their survival. I applaud her ability to keep Lincoln quiet and controlled which is no easy feat on a regular day but moreso when faced with a life and death situation. Second, when the teacher is confronted by one of the shooters and recounts him and other students she taught it’s a poignant reference to how many wound up as criminals.

I worry we have normalized mass shootings and while this book was an okay read I don’t ever want to connect leisure reading with such ugly acts of violence.