[Review] The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin
Sourced: DC Public Library, made it off the waiting list after a few months
Meows: 2.453, an extended rating because I really, truly wanted to love this book

TL;DR

Four siblings—Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon—live their lives knowing when they’ll die. Unsure if a prophecy from an old woman on Hester Street will come true, each sibling struggles with the power we give thoughts as each part of The Immortalists recounts the life and death of each sibling. Skirting the edge of historical fiction with sprinklings of real-life events, the Golds make their way from the early 1960’s to the 2000’s living through each other’s deaths.

REMEMBER THIS

“Give me one good reason why you shouldn’t start your life.”
page 98

“I wanted you to have everything you’ve ever wanted.” Simon squeezes Klara’s hand. Her palm is fleshy, a healthy pink. “But I do,” he says.
page 99

“By the third trimester, her mind is clear, never better—but that’s the problem, it’s too empty, miles and miles of space in which Klara sits and thinks.”
page 131

“She had been an agnostic since graduate school, but if there was one tenet of Judaism with which she agreed, it was this: the power of words. They weaseled under door cracks and through keyholes. They hooked into individuals and wormed through generations.”
page 290

TOE BEANS VALUE

On a scale of 1 to 10, The Immortalists comes in around a 3. If I’m honest, my rating is perhaps harsh because I really wanted to love this book. I loved the premise of four kids finding out the day they’ll die and the story following how they choose to live their lives based on that knowledge.

The book itself is broken into four parts—each section for a sibling—and while the first half of the book lives up to expectations, the second half falls flat. In some instances, the stories themselves feel a little disjointed. I understand the siblings lived separate lives and the book is meant to analyze how each interpreted their own prophecy, but the characters felt a little too distant at times when they were needed to tie the story together.

And as for if I’d want to know my own date of death? I’ve honestly thought about this a lot as I often stress that time is moving too quickly. Sometimes it would help make the hard decisions, but in the end—no, I wouldn’t want to know. I think if I learned anything from the Gold siblings, it was that they let their prophecy rule their lives. They lived irrationally, erratically, and full of constant doubt. They didn’t allow themselves the beauty of a routine, or a simplistic life filled with beautiful moments of travel, spontaneous pleasures, or sustained happiness. When they neared their day, they went running head first into death. Perhaps this is meant to be the greatest lesson from this book, but I think I already knew my own answer. To live simply. Fully. Happily.

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Has anyone else read this book? I saw so many great reviews on Goodreads, so a little curious if I’m the only disappointed reader? Like and leave a comment!

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