#bookreview – The Immortalists – by Chloe Benjamin

Important Life Questions Considered Within a Family Saga. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

This New York Times bestseller is a completely intriguing read – for the soulful questions it raises as well as the story itself. Questions like:
* What is the nature of fate?
* How much influence can any one person have over the direction of their life and how much is determined from the outside by family and circumstances?
* What is it about the relationships between siblings that makes them so much more powerful and long-lasting than so many other relationships we develop?
* And the big one – would knowing the specific date of one’s death be a good thing or bad thing?

immortalWhy the last one? Because The Immortalists relates the story of the four Gold children (Varya age 13, Daniel 11, Klara 9 and Simon 7) who together visit a fortune teller in 1969, where each is told the date of his/her death. No spoilers here — because this content is from the very first chapter. The remainder of the book tells the story, over the next five decades, of how each of these four lives unfolds and the different ways each sibling handles the information about their personal mortality.

Each of the four follows a different path. Simon moves to San Francisco in the late 1970s, Daniel becomes a physician, Klara follows her childhood passion for magic, and Varya becomes a groundbreaking research scientist. But throughout each life, the prophesy hovers, influencing many of their most important life decisions. And the emotional ties that bind them to each other, as well as to their immigrant parents Saul and Greta, also exert a strong influence.

It’s a well-written book, surprisingly suspenseful. Along the way, Benjamin weaves in some other interesting contemporary topics, like animals rights, military recruitment, the AIDS epidemic, and the struggles of performance artists. To me, the novel also has some flaws. While I found some storylines completely believable, others felt a bit contrived. But overall, a fast and very engaging read.

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