What would you do if you found out the day you're going to die? Does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? That's the premise of Chloe Benjamin's new novel The Immortalists, where four siblings - Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon - visit a psychic on the Lower East Side the summer of 1969. They each take their prophecies differently: the reader only finds out Varya's death date. Then, the novel is divided into four sections, each focusing on a different Gold sibling.
First: Simon, the youngest. He runs away from his mother to San Francisco and becomes a dancer at Purp, a gay bar. He becomes one of the first victims of AIDS. Second: Klara, a magician and performer, who ends up in Las Vegas. Third: Daniel, who becomes a military doctor. And last, Varya, the eldest who becomes a researcher on aging.
Benjamin told The Huffington Post, "I’ve always wanted to have a great fortune-teller experience in my own life. It’s fair to say the premise of the book derives from my own neuroses and anxieties. The uncertainty of life itself and our lack of control over much that awaits us, have gnawed at me for years. These preoccupations came together in this novel in the form of [four] children who encountered a fortune-teller, and each one’s story slowly unfolds."
There was a lot I loved about this book: the Jewishness of the Gold family, the sprawling nature of the story (going from 1969 to 2010), and how well Benjamin worked in the historical context. The first two narratives (Simon and Klara) were stronger than the second two (Daniel and Varya). But more than about death, this was a story of family.