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The Immortalists

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If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

346 pages, Hardcover

First published January 9, 2018

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About the author

Chloe Benjamin

3 books2,465 followers
Chloe Benjamin is the author of THE IMMORTALISTS, a New York Times Bestseller, #1 Indie Next Pick for January 2018, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, #1 Library Reads pick, and Amazon Best Book of the Month.

Her first novel, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS (Atria, 2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.

Her novels have been translated into over twenty-three languages. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 19,275 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
January 9, 2018
"And what if I change?" It seems impossible that Varya's future is already inside her like an actress just offstage, waiting decades to leave the wings.
"Then you'd be special. 'Cause most people don't."

2 1/2 stars. I have a lot of mixed feelings about The Immortalists. Though there were parts I enjoyed, I was left feeling underwhelmed and like I'd recommend many other similar books before recommending this one.

You should be aware that this is literary fiction and focuses in depth on the lives of four siblings. The enchanting premise that seems to promise elements of magical realism and the fantastical is a little misleading, as there is very little about prophecies and destiny. Though, personally, this didn't bother me so much. I really enjoy reading about families and the dynamics between them, especially when spread over many years, and I found it interesting to explore how each sibling deals with knowing the date of their death.

It begins with the four siblings visiting a psychic as children, near their home in 1960s New York City. This woman tells them - Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya - the exact date of their deaths. The book then goes on to consider how this information will affect their lives and the way they live them. The sci-fi/fantasy aspects are waved aside quickly. While there are some brief mentions of fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecy, the author never attempts to offer answers.

This is not a problem. My problem is that there are so many books about families with more memorable characters, fewer predictable plot points, and less trite messages. The classic stuff - East of Eden, Roots, Gone with the Wind, The Thorn Birds and The House of the Spirits, and the more recent stuff - Little Fires Everywhere, This is How It Always Is, Sing, Unburied, Sing and Pachinko.

The characters here didn't quite grab me like so many did in the aforementioned books. Some moments that should have been fraught with emotion seemed obvious and manipulative - The first two stories - that of Simon and Klara - have very little in the way of family dynamics, as Simon's story mostly consists of dancing in a San Francisco gay bar and meeting his new beau, and Klara's takes her to Vegas to be a magician. Secondary characters roam into these first two perspectives, but none of them make much of an impact.

The second two stories are better. Daniel becomes a doctor in the military and his job leads him to discover something about the psychic who predicted the siblings' deaths. Though my favourite was the last - Varya's. She is now a longevity scientist doing experiments on monkeys. I thought her perspective was well-researched and thought-provoking, and it was easy to imagine someone becoming obsessed with aging when they know their own expiration date.

The writing is just okay, which maybe contributes to making the characters less memorable. Benjamin also occasionally falls prey to the - increasingly more common in modern fiction - random sexual references. This is something that always baffles me and it's not easy to explain because it's not about sex, exactly. It's like there'll be a scene where a character is washing the dishes and the author will suddenly mention his penis hanging limp between his legs. His penis has nothing to do with anything in that scene - the poor dude is just washing some dishes! - and yet, there it is. Here, the author introduces thirteen-year-old Varya by the "dark patch of fur between her legs" in the second sentence of the book. I just... why?

Overall, though, this is a mixed bag of interesting ideas, steps in the right direction that halt too quickly, and a somewhat pedestrian account of the characters' lives. I felt like The Immortalists struggled to live up to its premise.

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Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews36k followers
October 23, 2019
Update ---I must add one more thought to this review: *The-Book-Cover* is not only lovely -- but now that I've read the book -- I recognize this 'perfect' design is symbolic to this story.
Jewish Kabbalists believe "The Tree of Life" to be a diagrammatic representation of the process by which the Universe came into being".
Jewish Kabbalists also don't envision time and space as pre-existing.
A wonderful -symbolically fitting book cover -- The mysticism of the fortune teller mixed with traditional Jewish beliefs - and the story told in this novel ---adds up to one thing: "The Tree of Life" -- Perfect!!! ..........and "Beautiful"!

Wow....I thought this book was incredible- and I had many reservations about reading it: mixed reviews- etc.

I’ve lost HOURS of sleep - but this book took my mind off of concerns - and/or included them....which worked too.

To me this was so much more than, “would you like to know the date of your death?” - or even, “how you might live your life if you knew?” The story of Simon and Klara especially had me turning pages - and I became very interested in the birth of Ruby- wondering how she was going to fit into this story -given that she didn’t see the fortune teller.
I didn’t think a story could be more sad than Simon’s ( the first story) - but not true - I felt the sadness for each one of them - be it regret - grief - fear - anger - guilt - etc.
These characters were distinctive. I felt as though I knew them.
So just spending time with each family member - getting to know them all - the relationships was enough to keep me interested.

Plus, somehow I missed - or nobody mentioned to me - that this was a Jewish Family I learned things about Jewish Law that I had never heard before which was fascinating to me. I never knew the laws about suicide with burial accordance.
Plus I found it fascinating mixing the Jewish faith with a fortune teller — really opened my thinking.

This quote sums up ways I, too, was thinking while reading this novel...
It’s an excerpt by the character Klara:
“Perhaps the point is not to resist death. Perhaps the point is that there’s no such thing. If Simon and Saul are contacting Klara, then consciousness survives death of the body. If consciousness survives the death of the body, then everything she’s been told about death isn’t true. And if everything she’s been taught isn’t true, maybe death is not death at all”.

Personally - I think this is one of the best books I’ve read this year so far - and think it would make an excellent book club discussion pick.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,026 reviews58.9k followers
February 17, 2018
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a 2018 G.P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

In a novel, so centered on death, there is a tremendous amount of life and living within these pages.

Beginning in 1969, the four Gold siblings boldly knock on the door of a fortune teller who then proceeds to impart to them the one thing nobody knows when they enter this world- the exact day you will die.

For better or worse, Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon cope with this heavy information, but, their approach to life, their attitudes and actions could not be more different.

How will they decide to live their lives? By throwing caution to the wind, living every moment like it counts, or will they become a slave to the fortune teller’s predictions? What would you do if you knew the exact date of your earthly departure?

Each of the siblings will have a segment dedicated to their life story, beginning with Simon, the youngest of the four.

Getting through Simon’s story, the outcome of which is easy to predict, could make some readers a bit uncomfortable, as it is quite explicit. However, it is also very authentic and captures the era, the fear, the location, and atmosphere of the era perfectly. Simon’s story sets the stage for a riveting family saga that prompts the reader to wonder just how much of our lives are controlled by elements such as pure luck or destiny and how much control we have over our own future. Can we help dire predictions along- force them to happen when they may not have otherwise? Is too much information advantageous or does it work against us in the end?

It’s an interesting proposal and discussions about these concepts could be very deep, which would make this novel a fantastic book club read.

I did have some trouble with the plausibility or probability of certain events in the story, but looking past that, I was fascinated by the psychological effects obtaining information about the future had on the characters. The last segment is maybe the most revealing, and perhaps the deepest area of the story as the quest for longevity replaces the pleasure of really living one’s life with gusto.

This story has some magical elements, but overall, it’s a family saga, one that is perhaps a bit heavy, a little mournful, but not necessarily bleak.

I put this review off for a little while unsure of how to relay my feelings about the book. I’m glad I read it, as it did challenge me, forcing me to consider deep, philosophical subjects about life and death, faith, destiny, our susceptibility to suggestion, just to name a few. But, for me, the prose and characterizations is what really makes this novel stand out.

I’m not sure if this is a novel I would ever revisit, or if these are subjects I want to address frequently, but, anytime a novel can take me into an unknown realm, one that is a little out of my element or comfort zone, I respect it, and give credit where credit is due.

4 stars
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,275 followers
March 22, 2018
Conceptually intriguing but lackluster in its execution. Benjamin’s contemporary coming-of-age tantalizes with its premise of four siblings who encounter a traveling psychic who reveals when they will die but is feather-light in its examination of the line between destiny and choice. Despite mention of mysticism and psychics, gypsies and magicians, the prose is unadorned, and the brevity of each character’s story evokes a perpetual sense of detachment. The fun of The Immortalists lies in speculating which characters will meet their demise and wondering, if they do, how will Death take them?
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
February 26, 2020
The Immortalists….
Imagine you are a kid and together with your siblings you sneak out of the house to go see a gypsy woman who is said to be able predict the day you die… It’s 1969 in New York City’s East side, and word has spread about a mystical woman, a traveling psychic….You go to see her and all of you get to hear ‘your’ date.
You go home and then…. Life goes on. Will you believe this prophecy, will it influence the way you live? Will you be able to handle it? How will you live your life?
This is the story of a Jewish family in New York, featuring four siblings, Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya, and their mother. Each chapter tells about one of the sibling’s lives and how it progresses.
It was a tough read, a rough read, raw, I really had to stop every once in a while because it was just hard for me.
But… it’s brilliant too, emotional (tears…), weird, human and it’s about love. Wew…. This book really had impact on me.
Because of the pain of this book I thought about four stars, but really this book, and its impact, really needs to get the full five stars from me.
Seriously impressive. Beautifully written, from the heart. Not sure everyone can take it, I had a hard time, but it’s worth the read. Highly Recommended.
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,500 followers
August 3, 2019
2.5 stars

What a unique and compelling premise. Would you want to know the date of your death? And if you did, how would that knowledge change the way you lived? If you change your life could that be the very thing that might hasten your demise? Or would you just try and make the most of every day?

The book opens with 4 siblings visiting a fortune teller who tells each of them the exact day they would die. After this intriguing beginning, the story is broken into four parts, one for each of the siblings. As we follow them throughout their lives, the stories were uneven. Several I liked and a couple I intensely disliked. Klara’s in particular I struggled to get through, mainly because I don’t like or care about the lifestyle of a magician/illusionist. Varya’s story was the last one to tell. She is a research scientist and, unfortunately, there are scenes depicting lab studies done on monkeys, that I found disturbing and heartbreaking. I could have done without poor little Frida’s story. Of the remaining two siblings, one was far-fetched and the other unnecessarily graphic.

I thought there was a missed opportunity to explore the subtleties of the conundrum of fate vs self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead it reads like a family saga with very unlikable characters. Likability is not something I demand from my fictional characters. In fact, I usually love a fun, dysfunctional family story. But this one just didn't deliver.

In the end I was simply underwhelmed. Other reviewers seem to love it so this is probably a case of the wrong book for this reader.

* Early in the book there are several graphic sex scenes between two gay men. It may be off-putting to some, but it’s easily skimmed. I didn’t feel it was gratuitous since it fit into the story line, but I do think it was unnecessarily graphic.

*I received an e-galley of this book for review via Edelweiss
Profile Image for Felice Laverne.
Author 1 book3,202 followers
February 12, 2020
See my exclusive interview with Chloe Benjamin about her novel The Immortalists here!

“There are two major theories about how to stop aging…”
“…It sounds like you’re saying we can choose to live. Or we can choose to survive.”

Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists is a thoughtfully executed novel written in simple, yet often poetic, prose that allowed the characters’ voices at their most forceful to shine on their own past the narrative itself. More than that, it is a novel crafted around a question we all ask ourselves more often than we’d care to admit: “Is it more important to truly live or to survive? To dare to dream at our grandest or to play it safe?” And, if you knew the exact day on which you’d die, would you live your life any differently than you would without that hateful knowledge?

In their youth, the Gold siblings follow a rumor to the home of a Gypsy fortune teller who gives them the knowledge they seek: the exact dates of their deaths. These prophecies propel them forward for the rest of their lives, influencing their decisions, changing the courses of their lives and plunging the question into the forefront of their minds forever: Was the fortune teller right, and, if so, can they change the course of their own fates?

It’s an intriguing idea, we must all admit. A scary one. A downright chilling one. And the leitmotif Benjamin poses to her reader manifests itself throughout the novel with compelling force, from the exploration of God and country’s place within our existence, to what the prophecy of one’s own death does to such beliefs. Do we cling to such notions and ingrained dogmas all the way to the end, cowering under them safely like warm, childhood blankets, or using them to fortify us in our resolve and everyday decisions—or, do we slough off and away such religious and secular beliefs and become our own reason for living, our own life force, whether to our own detriment or benefit?

The Immortalists bounds along a timeline spanning five decades, trotting through the start of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco—

“You weren’t terrified?”
“No, not then…When doctors said we should be celibate, it didn’t feel like they were telling us to choose between sex and death. It felt like they were asking us to choose between death and life. And no one who worked that hard to live life authentically, to have sex authentically, was willing to give it up.”

¬–toward Las Vegas in the 80s and into the early years of this century, tackling tough questions, such as the logistics behind increasing the human lifespan—and the politics of attempting such a thing. For readers who enjoy novels of sweeping timelines, they’re sure to find a treat in Benjamin’s latest novel. The period settings weren’t quite as immersive as I’d hoped—the societal and technological differences in backdrop between the decades were noted but not submerging in a way that allowed me to really feel I was moving from decade to decade with true authenticity. However, what I did take from this book were lessons to carry with me, delivered by poignant phrasing that outshone the actual stories of the four siblings’ lives. And that resonated loudly enough to forgive such specifics.

I had an interesting relationship with this novel as I continued my reader’s affair with it. I could not relate specifically to any one of the characters in this book. I would not have been friends with any of them in real life, and I did feel that some of the plotlines were predictable. BUT, I learned a lesson from every single one of the siblings that I took with me until the end, and each of those moments of recognition were special.

What do you want?...and if [she] answered him honestly she would have said this: To go back to the beginning. She would tell her thirteen-year-old self not to visit the woman. To her twenty-five-year old self: Find Simon, forgive him…She’d tell herself she would die, she would die, they all would…She’d tell herself that what she really wanted was not to live forever, but to stop worrying…”

This is a novel with a strong core and a big heart, with a moral and a central theme to tie all the threads together. Chloe Benjamin’s second novel continued her thus-far-established trend of exploring existential questions in our everyday lives, creating a brand for her that is sure to glimmer and shine, attracting new readers from far and wide. 4 stars ****

*I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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Exclusive CHLOE BENJAMIN INTERVIEW: Magic Meets Humanity, Resilience Meets Reality – Chloe Benjamin Tackles the Ultimate Life Question: How We Handle Mortality
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.2k followers
July 31, 2019
This was a Traveling Sisters Group Read, and only two of us were left standing in the Lush Coulee with the rest of the sisters leaving the coulee at or before the first goal of this book. Thank you to Jennifer for reading this one with me, it was a pleasure and I loved the discussion this book brought out.

4.5 stars! This was such a memorable and interesting read that had such a unique storyline with a profound and special message within the pages of this book that had us asking ourselves so many questions!

What if we could find out the date of our death? Would we want to know? Would it change the way that we would live our lives?  Is it fate or do we have the ability to change our fate?

Love life for what we have and live it to our greatest potential as if it were our last, as we never know if we are actually living our last day!

THE IMMORTALISTS by CHLOE BENJAMIN is an interesting, entertaining, fascinating, and a different sort of read that had me feeling quite uncomfortable with some of the early scenes but then had me totally engaged and I needed to find out how this story was going to end. I thoroughly enjoyed following along the lives of these four young siblings who find out the date of each of their deaths from a gypsy fortune teller.  

CHLOE BENJAMIN delivers a beautifully written, intriguing and captivating story here that was told in all the different perspectives of the four siblings as their date predicted by the fortune teller comes near. My favorite sibling was Klara, and I really loved reading her section and I really enjoyed the magical aspect to her storyline.

I would also like to mention that this book is not going to be for everyone. It's a thought-provoking book with a strong message that is for sure, but there were a couple of explicit sex scenes which I wasn’t quite expecting and the descriptions were a little uncomfortable for me to read. I wish that I would have been forewarned about them so I would have been a little prepared before reading this book.

To sum it all up it was a fast-paced, heartfelt, powerful, thought-provoking, and a deeply moving story that was hard for me to put down.  Highly recommended with caution!!!

Publishing Date:  January 9, 2018  

Thank you so much to Edelweiss, G.P. Putnam’s Sons & Chloe Benjamin for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a review!

Review written and posted on our themed book blog Two Sisters Lost In A Coulee Reading:

Coulee: a term applied rather loosely to different landforms, all of which refer to a kind of valley.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.5k followers
December 21, 2018
3.5? 3.75?

I actually ended up liking this more than I expected!

The premise was very intriguing. Four siblings meet a psychic who tells them the exact date they will die. It then influences how they choose to live their lives.

This felt more like a historical fiction/contemporary than fantasy/sci-fi so be warned!

It's definitely a slow burning story where you follow each characters throughout their struggles.

I enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
September 6, 2017
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

If you could know the exact day of your death, would you want to find out? If you did find out, how would knowing that information affect how you lived your life? These questions are at the heart of The Immortalists , Chloe Benjamin's deeply affecting and beautifully written new book.

In 1969, growing up on New York's Lower East Side, the Gold siblings learn that there is a traveling fortune teller in their neighborhood who can tell anyone the day they will die. While not everyone is sure that this is actually true, the four children—straightforward Varya, bossy Daniel, impetuous, magic-obsessed Klara, and dreamy Simon—decide to find out.

What the woman tells each of them that day will greatly affect their lives, none more so than Klara and Simon. Klara, wanting nothing more than to pursue a career as a magician and illusionist, can't get out of New York and away from her stifling family soon enough, and she lets her younger brother Simon convince them that the two should flee to San Francisco after Klara graduates from high school. Simon knows he is different and dreams that San Francisco will be the place he can finally be free to be who he is, to find love and be someone other than the son destined to inherit his family's garment business.

Klara watches as her brother pursues his life with reckless abandon, and while she wants to pursue her dreams as well, she knows she must be the stable one for him. Both are driven by the fortune teller's prophecy, which causes them to be more reckless and impetuous than they should, but also to take chances they might not otherwise pursue, to truly live their lives to their fullest. And when Klara finally meets someone who can help take her to the cusp of the world she craves entry to, she envisions bringing her illusions and tricks to an appreciating public, no matter the toll it takes on her.

"Some magicians say that magic shatters your worldview. But I think magic holds the world together. It's dark matter; it's the glue of reality, the putty that fills the holes between everything we know to be true. And it takes magic to reveal how inadequate reality is."

Meanwhile, Daniel and Varya, both angry and envious that their younger siblings left them responsible for their aging, widowed mother, try not to focus on whether what the fortune teller told them will come true, yet both pursue more grounded, stable careers—Daniel as a military doctor responsible for determining which soldiers are healthy enough to go to war, and Varya as a researcher determined to find the secrets of longevity. But each have secrets of their own, as well as the shared secrets which cause them increasing fear, anxiety, and guilt.

The Immortalists is a fascinating book, one which was both surprising and predictable. Parts are truly moving and powerful—the first two sections, which focus on Simon and Klara, are much stronger than those which focus on Daniel and Varya. Daniel's section veers off-course with the reappearance of a character and a situation that seems entirely too pat, and Varya's section loses a bit of focus when it dwells in-depth on the science of her research, but the conclusion recaptures the passion, emotion, and beauty of the beginning.

Benjamin is a fantastic storyteller and she has created a tremendously thought-provoking book. Is our destiny really predetermined, or can we have a hand in changing what is destined? Does the idea of knowing how long your life might last encourage you to live life to the fullest, or does it instead fill you with more fear and dread than the unknown would?

I don't think I'll be able to get this book out of my mind anytime soon. The characters were so vivid, and even when the plot lost track, I was immersed in the story, which I'm being vague about because I don't want to spoil anything. I can't wait to see what comes next in Benjamin's literary career.

NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,600 reviews24.8k followers
January 30, 2018
Chloe Benjamin's epic The Immortalists has us considering some of the most fundamental and complex questions about life and how we live it. It is thought provoking as it asks does knowledge of our mortality make us live our life to the utmost or makes us fearful, guilty, and seek to outwit death? It is 1969 and in Manhattan, New York, the 4 Jewish Gold children seek a light hearted encounter with a gypsy psychic, who tells each of them their prophecies and their date of death. They cannot break free of this knowledge which shapes their futures for the following five decades. This is a story of family, loss, secrets, regrets, sibling relationships, death and above all else, about life.

The lives of each of the children is followed to the last moments in their lives. Klara and Simon are close as siblings, Simon cannot wait to leave home, this culminates in the two of them escaping to San Francisco. The prophecies determine that they live life to the max and at the edge. The gay Simon embarks on a search for love, plunging into life with abandon, displaying a reckless disregard for his own safety in his actions, ignoring all warnings. Klara pursues her obsession for magic, ignited by her grandmother, as she becomes a magician, The Immortalist, playing with ideas of reality. Daniel and Varya are resentful at how they have been left behind with their mother. Daniel becomes a miitary medic whilst Varya seeks the answers to living longer as a researcher. Their lives are considerably more stable but more strewn with guilt and fear.

Benjamin writes in beautiful vibrant prose, creating a compelling and philosophical narrative that draws in the reader effortlessly. The debate as to whether our lives can be foretold, our destiny written in the stars, or can we be architects of our future, determining the paths we choose to take, is the raison d'etre for this novel. Do we burn brightly in the lives we live in the full knowledge we are going to die, or do we allow ourselves to fall prey to our insecurities, guilt, and fear as the consequent possibilities that life offers shrink? There are the inevitable questions of how this has an impact on how religion and country can come to be viewed. This is a profoundly moving book, although uneven on occasion, with disturbed and complicated characters pushed into confronting their mortality from a young age. I much preferred Simon and Klara to Daniel and Varya as they exuded a greater hold on my imagination. This is a perfect read for those wanting to explore ideas and concepts through a fascinating and memorable collection of siblings living through a significant and turbulent period of history. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Headline for an ARC.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,336 followers
January 22, 2018
I didn’t love everything about The Immortalists, but I found it powerful in parts, and especially at the end. After giving it some thought, I’m comfortable with a 4 star rating.

The book focuses on four siblings. At the beginning, as children and young teens growing up in Manhattan, they visit a fortune teller who tells them separately and secretly the date they will each die. The rest of the book is broken into four parts, each part focusing on one sibling. It’s not so much about whether the prediction is true or not, but about how the prediction affects how they live their lives.

In a way, it’s a concept book. How would you live your life if there was a chance you knew the date of your death? But there’s a lot more to the tale Benjamin weaves. These are complex troubled characters - affected by their time in history, their family background and their ties with each other. At times, I found that Benjamin pushed the internal and interpersonal drama a bit too far, but I still wanted to keep reading. And I’m glad I did because the end is perfect.

Some reviewers seem to be turned off by early graphic sex scenes. It’s a very small part of the book — and in my view a necessary part of the story at that point — so it shouldn’t deter anyone from reading further. (As an addendum, I should add that toward the end there are a few scenes that may be disturbing to people who have trouble reading about animals being mistreated -- they're not exploitative, but they may be hard to read.)

Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for giving me access to an advance copy.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.4k followers
August 23, 2019
‘she knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.’

but if you knew the exact day you were going to die, how would you let those stories change the way you lived life? would you try to change the future, reminisce on the past, or just live in the present?

i love how this story explores these questions, these themes, these ideas. and does so in a very real and relatable way. it shows the fear and fearlessness, the comfort and loneliness, the impulsivity and planning. i wouldnt say this is an enjoyable book, just because of the weight of these topics, but its definitely captivating.

the way this story is formatted is quite effective, with each section focusing on one of the four children, in chronological order, rather than combining all four perspectives in one larger narrative. it felt like each section was a building block for the overall story, with each siblings POV laying the foundation for the next. i really liked that.

its hard to go into anything specific without spoiling the story, but i will say that i enjoyed daniels section the most. where simon and klaras sections focus on their youth and ambition, and varyas POV drove home the main theme of ageing and immortality, its daniels focus on family and the personal introspection of death that spoke to me more.

overall, this a thought-provoking novel with strong themes and tender writing. definitely recommendable for those looking for something more on the serious, yet hopeful, side of things.

4 stars
Profile Image for Pam Gonçalves.
Author 9 books10.6k followers
January 25, 2021

A premissa desse livro me deixou bastante pensativa por alguns dias. Imagina saber o dia exato que você vai morrer. Você viveria a vida intensamente ou de forma segura? Eu fiquei pensando sobre isso o tempo todo: O que eu faria?

Foi por causa da premissa que eu resolvi ler este livro nas minhas lives de sprints de leitura. É um assunto muito interessante para refletir. Partindo do pressuposto que o livro trata de prever o futuro, como leitores, sabemos o fim das coisas, mas não o como. E acho que aí que o livro perdeu alguns pontos comigo. Bastante equilibrado em passagens previsíveis, mas que nos despertavam emoções e outras inesperadas, mas monótonas. Mesmo com um final que finalmente mostra a evolução de uma das personagens, não me cativou o suficiente para ganhar meu coração.

O livro é interessante para questionar a vida, o impacto da família e como lidamos com a morte de forma geral. Não é nada sensacional, mas vale a leitura despretensiosa.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews112k followers
November 13, 2019
An intriguing concept but ultimately I didn't feel attached to any of the characters or feel the emotional weight of the story.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.2k followers
January 15, 2022
I have two sets of feelings about this book.

One, this concept - a set of four siblings who go to a psychic who tells them when they will die, and then following them one by one through the decades as the predictions come true - is the best book idea I have read in recent memory.


I cannot read a good book about a family - especially about siblings - without coming out the other side thinking they are really related to me, in real life.

Finishing a book that fits this description is a heartbreak in and of itself, because you're saying goodbye to your loved ones, if you're the same kind of insane that I am.

But this is even more heartbreaking than usual.

Not a perfect book, and a very painful one, but beautifully written and filled with characters I truly love.

I'm going to go cry quietly now.

Bottom line: NEVER AGAIN.

Just kidding. If you hear about a well written literary fiction book about siblings hit me up immediately.


aaaaaaaaand now i'm tearing up.

god damn. i hate when books ruin my steely reputation.

review to come / 4 stars

tbr review

whenever i hear about someone reading on a bus or a train or in a park or whatever i picture them reading this book, which i have not read, and which i know nothing about.

not sure what that says about me, but it's true.

clear ur sh*t book 50
quest 23: opulent cover
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
486 reviews1,356 followers
February 2, 2018
Would you want to know when you will die? It would give you a chance to live life to its fullest or could hang over you like a death sentence.

It's 1969 and the 4 young Gold siblings decide to chance it when a gypsy comes to town to find out when their expiration dates are up.

These prophecies dictate how their lives unfold because as much as they don't want to believe, their own self fulfilling prophecies will lead them down a path: Simon, the youngest, lives his life recklessly trying to fulfill his dreams at the cost of losing his family; Klara, the magician, thinks she is invincible of death and will outlive it, but the memory of the prophecy overshadows hers life and she takes up alcohol as a way of coping. Can she magically will away her time?Daniel, the doctor, believes in science rather than the prophecies of a witch. But when his d day comes, does the science prove truth over the reality of the words spoken to him as a young boy? And Varya, the eldest who is to live the longest. She dedicates her life to studying primates and their longevity; opting for science rather than the irrational. But longevity doesn't equate to living. All siblings influenced by the psychic's premonitions -
True or false they padded the paths each child followed. The tragedies that may have been avoided.

Themes of religion, sibling rivalry, family and regrets, abound in this exemplary story that spans 3 centuries. And a totally cool cover makes this a 5⭐️ read.

Profile Image for Tammy.
511 reviews429 followers
September 3, 2018
I thought that this was going to be magical realism which I confess is not a subgenre that I enjoy. It isn't. Four siblings, as children, find out the date of their deaths and for the next fifty years their lives richochet about as they try to live with (or run from) this knowledge. The Immortalists is about life, the bonds between siblings as well as science, religion, dance and research monkeys. Yes, you read that correctly.
Profile Image for Linda.
1,226 reviews1,275 followers
January 22, 2018
"The power of words. They weaseled under door cracks and through keyholes. They hooked into individuals and wormed through generations."

And the utterance of dates murmured by an unreliable mystical woman on a scorching hot summer's day is the focus of this story. It's 1969 in New York City and the four young Gold children set out to find this elusive woman who will tell them the dates of their deaths.

Would you honestly want to know? The gift of life is like handing over the reins of a wild runaway stallion. You either hold on tight and feel the hoofbeats taking you on roads never traveled or you pull back cautiously looking over your shoulder while trying to bring the stallion restrained behind the pasture gate. It's pretty much your call. It's pretty much your sense of direction. Even if you fall off the horse......

I know that I'm going against the grain here. The Immortalists has received stellar reviews. I feel like the person in the back seat of the car who reminds you that you ran a red light back there. The talented Chloe Benjamin weaves quite the storyline. And it is in the initial first pages that the reader must accept the premise that what this fortune teller states must be true or there is no story. Eventual maturity and adulthood does not seem to squelch a distant childhood lark for all four. And as the story unfolds there are more and more head-shaking incidents that occur.....actions that seem outlandish and out of character for these individuals.

Chloe Benjamin gives us four character studies each pinned against a precise historical timeline. My wish is that we would have had more indepth interactions among these siblings back in their childhood. Adulthood comes roaring around the corner too fast with two unleashed on the West coast and two seemingly chained on the East coast. The stories of Simon and Klara rang with predictability. Daniel's story made little sense and Varya is in a holding pattern until the very end. Ruby was the only character that I enjoyed and even that seemed quite staged.

I heartily encourage you to read The Immortalists for yourselves. The ending did have some rewarding moments which were held back until then. Perhaps the greatest take-away from this book is to reach out with both hands to those we know who are becoming frayed and undone. Speaking up, whether viewed as rude or intrusive, is far better than the heavy, heavy weight of regrets in life. It all comes back to the power of words........

Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
February 4, 2018
Live each day as if it were your last, while also not knowing it's your last day. ✨ 4.5 stars rounded up for The Immortalists

The Immortalists is a different sort of book. Hard to classify, and while it may not be for everybody, it was an addictive read for me. Four young siblings find out the date of each of their deaths from a gyspsy fortune teller. The reader follows each sibling as "the day" edges near, and the way the stories were arranged and overlapped between each character added further interest.

Simon comes of age in San Francisco where he is free to be exactly who he wants to be. He lives a large and fast life. Klara becomes a magician and a mother, but has some deep internal conflict. Daniel follows what is expected of him and always seeks to protect his siblings. Varya becomes a scientist studying aging. Each storyline is fascinating in its own right, and the pacing was exceptional except for one section for me - Varya's. It moved a little slower, but it was still necessary for the messages of the book; which by the way, were profound.

This was a Traveling Sister read, and only two of us made it past the first section of the book. It was a pleasure reading and discussing this with Norma, especially how the book made us feel. I found this to be a special book with deep meaning. Check out the Traveling Sisters' blog for awesome reviews: http://twogirlslostinacouleereading.w...

Thank you to Chloe Benjamin, G.P. Putnam, and Edelweiss for the complimentary copy. The Immortalists releases on January 9, 2018.
Profile Image for Tim.
2,131 reviews200 followers
November 10, 2018
First, this is mistitled. Second, I listened to every word. Narrator, Maggie Hoffman is excellent. Third. My overall conclusion is that this is 99% downerville. The writing while good, scatters this novel and leaves the listener/reader unfulfilled. If you favor tragedies with lots of depression, this is for you. 4 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Liz.
2,019 reviews2,520 followers
January 17, 2019

So, would you want to know the date of your death? I would not, but it’s a fascinating premise for a novel. Four siblings venture to a fortune teller in 1969 and learn the exact dates of their deaths. The book then takes on each sibling and shows us how their life plays out. Do they live their lives differently for knowing the date? Do their actions lead them to die on the intended date? Do those that are given a long life take advantage of the time or waste it?

It’s a sad book. I wanted to wrap my arms around Simon and Kara. Each character is fully defined and felt real. Each is a lost soul in their own way.

I’ve often written about my fascination with siblings and how they relate. Here, the two older siblings get caught in the responsible roles and they resent those roles. But that doesn’t mean the younger two get off easy. And each survivor is left to deal with the ghosts of those that have gone before.

There’s a lot of meat to this book, concerning religion, faith, predestination. I read this for my book club and think it will make for an interesting discussion. It’s not an easy read and I wonder how many people will dislike it for that reason.

Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,778 followers
January 6, 2018
This is my first 5 star rating of a novel that I didn’t really like at all most of the way through... I came very close to not finishing. That is why I am completely baffled by my own reaction. The pieces to this puzzle are not really unique on their own, however, once they come together the product is utterly amazing. Upon finishing I could not fathom giving it anything other than 5 stars. Would make a great book club pick... it yearns to be discussed and I’m really looking forward to others reactions & thoughts. Plow through... you will be glad you did. ‘The cost of loneliness is high... the cost of loss is higher.’; ‘Thoughts have wings.’
Profile Image for Karen.
573 reviews1,114 followers
January 17, 2018
4.5 for this novel centered around 4 siblings in New York. It’s 1969, these Jewish siblings ages 13-7, two boys and two girls, hear on the street that there is a woman in the city who can tell fortunes. They visit her and she sees them one at a time, and tells them the date they will die.
So we follow these kids through the years and see how this information changes the way they live and their relationships with their family and others.
I really enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,135 followers
January 16, 2018
3.5 Stars.

BEWARE the woman on Hester Street.

As the story begins, it's 1969 New York when four bored adolescent siblings....just for a bit of fun....pool their allowances and sneak out to track down a Seer they heard tell about who could predict the date of their death.

What they discover changes each life forever.

One by one, the individual stories are told, the dates of demise divulged as we follow a young Varya 13, Daniel 11, Klara 9 and Simon 7 throughout their often heartbreaking, challenging and tumultuous lives while experiencing the closeness of family, the devastation of loss and a uniquely plotted work of fiction.

Take note, that the first story is particularly graphic (and predictable) but indicative of the times and a 1960's San Francisco. There are also a few other (quick) descriptions of bodily changes mentioned here and there that I found bizarre and rather unnecessary, and, last but not least, as an animal lover, 'part' of one storyline was quite bothersome.

Overall though, each story is an interesting tale in itself....with a message....that culminates into one thought-provoking read....Would you want to know?

January 8, 2018
5 stars for a book that makes you think. "Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come."

What if you knew the day, the month, the year of your death? Would that make you live a different life? Would you try to compress all of life's experiences, the good, the seedy, and the bad into a short life projection? Would you languish your days knowing that you had many years in front of you and there was no hurry to be all that you wanted to be?

For the Gold children, hearing of a mysterious gypsy who was able to tell you the time of your demise, seemed an excellent way to while away a boring summer's day. So, one at a time, the children listen to the prediction, not at all aware of how that very prediction will come to affect the very lives they live. Klara, Daniel, Simon, and Vanya each learn of their date with death and the novel follows them in seeing what that knowledge does to their young lives.

Eventually, Simon (a young gay boy) with his sister Klara (a girl fascinated with magic) run to the freedom and lifestyle of San Francisco in the 1970's. Simon embraces the gay scene and becomes immersed in one night stands, unprotected sex, up until he decides on a future that includes dance and meets a man he loves. However, it is the time of that horrible killer AIDS, and Simon ignores the warnings and continues his life with reckless abandon.

Klara, winds up in Vegas, blurring the lines of reality often as she drinks and labels her act The Immortalist. She marries, bears a child, and of all the characters seems to await what the fortuneteller has told her.

Daniel becomes a doctor working in the military deciding on the fitness of young men to serve. He is the one who eventually will seek out the fortuneteller and meet his destiny.

Varya becomes a research scientist, looking into the ways to possibly prolong life. Se battles her OCD as she studies longevity in monkeys.

All of the characters seem always sad. They seem to be adrift and possibly the knowing of their date with death has made them into the pathetic creatures they have become. As I read, I could not help but feel that the knowledge they gained condemned them in their choices, their lives, and their ability to love.

Ms Benjamin has written a novel that makes one think. What if you knew too? Would your life be any different? Would you have grasped that burning candle at both ends and thrown every bit of caution to the wind as Klara and Simon did or would you have settled in, hunkered down, and led a life of predictability as Daniel and Varya seemed to have done? This is a book that will leave you thinking and pondering fate and death long after you have finished reading its very last word.

Thank you to Chloe Benjamin, Putnam Publishing, and Edelweiss for an ARC of this very intriguing novel.

Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,425 reviews2,497 followers
November 13, 2017
Great premise, but left me underwhelmed as a novel

Have we reached a point where for a book to be regarded as ‘literary fiction’ all that is required is that it’s not genre fiction? I ask because this comes accompanied with lots of hype and buzz but personally I found it both underwhelming and eminently forgettable.

The fascinating premise asks questions about how we would live if we knew with certainty the date of our death – but this big theme gets shoved aside for what are more or less four consecutive mini stories of the four siblings who have consulted a woman who claims to know when they will die.

The first story is clichéd and obvious – . The second story of Klara the magician takes a different approach to the issue of predestination but much of the story is taken up with magic tricks and showmanship - one of my personal pet hates in fiction.

Daniel’s story finally starts to capitalise on the family dynamics and the effects of the prophecies but it shades away into handy meetings and an unbelievably melodramatic climax. His life as a military doctor, prominent in the blurb, is also a red herring: he might as well be an accountant for all the effect it has on his story. And Varya’s story takes us into another direction again with her research into the ageing process. The latter is researched well but fails to ignite a novel which struggles to deal with its own premise.

Throughout, the writing is serviceable but has nothing distinctive or particularly stylish about it, and I found the stories about the siblings frequently a bit superficial and shallow. Daniel starts to probe questions of religion as a way to give shape to a life and what happens when religious belief is rejected – but considering that it’s 2006 and the existentialists had already faced up to the loss of faith and the personal responsibility that ensues for living a life of secular value, it hardly feels fresh or novel.

Overall, there’s a great premise that kicks off this book – but what follows doesn’t do it justice. The guiding idea gets lost or submerged, and when it emerges it's only to be treated in desultory fashion. I hoped the story of the Gold siblings would tackles issues in both an intellectual and emotive way but, for me, this was a bit of mildly pleasant puff.

Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Jenny.
269 reviews98 followers
July 27, 2018
This was a book from the library on my want to read list. I just finished and couldn’t put it down but now filled with sadness and a general feeling of true unnecessary sorrow for the family.
So many themes in this book, fate vs freewill, happiness versus duty/obligation, freedom versus family and many more.
It is certainly a book that leaves you pondering your own goals, hopes and dreams for the life that you are given.
Profile Image for Brandice.
855 reviews
June 12, 2019
In The Immortalists the Gold siblings - Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon - pool their money together to visit a female fortune teller who tells visitors the exact date of their death. As children, this sounds somewhat spooky, but mostly intriguing, however, the visit is not what the children expected. The Golds are seen separately by the woman, and the news she shares with each of them affects the siblings differently. The Immortalists is then divided into four parts, detailing the fate of each sibling over the course of the next several decades. I was swept up in the story, very curious to see how things played out.

The Golds did not seem to have a happy childhood so it wasn’t a surprise they’d seek out this type of excitement when the opportunity presented itself. At different times in the story, some of the siblings seemed close to one another while others did not. Each of them were very different - Simon, young and seemingly selfish at times, Klara, a free spirit, unconcerned with conventional aspects of life, Daniel, a Type-A but deeply feeling person, and Varya, scholarly and dedicated to her work in order to minimize feelings she had no desire to explore. They all seemed tormented by inner thoughts, rarely sharing them with each other. At the same time, you could feel the love, deep down, between them.

Now that I’ve finished the book and had some time to think about it, there are thought-provoking questions here - Does knowing your alleged date of death in advance make you behave differently? Particularly, on said date? This is a question that’s not just limited to this story either. For example, some people (whether actively or subconsciously) seek the occurrence of certain actions that align with their horoscope (that they read earlier in the day). It’s interesting to consider.

I liked how the book ended too, though I could understand how others may not. Death is inevitable, but how much do the choices we make play a role in when it happens? With all of the questions presented in The Immortalists, I think it’d also make a good book club selection.
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