Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

If you could find out the exact date of your death, would you? And if you did, what would you do with this knowledge?

This is the question that informs The Immortalists. The Gold siblings are barely teenagers when they seek out a fortune teller who can allegedly tell you the day you die. One by one they are told their dates and the book then follows them over the next decades, through their lives and deaths.

The book is divided into four sections, following each sibling. They are vastly different characters but each fascinating and well drawn. Their interactions with each other are especially well-portrayed, I thought. Overall, they are not particularly close, years passing between meetings for some. But when they are together they have a clear and beautiful closeness, a history and relationship that is uniquely that of brothers and sisters. No one knows you in the way a sibling does and Benjamin portrays that so well, in all its complex beauty and sorrow. As such, the Golds’ parents are also a key part of the story even though we get only glimpses of them up close. The way their father’s death shaped them, the choices their mother made for herself and her children.

The less you know about how each sibling turns out, the better, I think, when beginning this novel, which makes it hard to write a review. I don’t want to tell you whether or not each fortune turns out to be true but it is an interesting examination of the power of thought. How would you live your life if you believed you were to die at 20? Or if you had until age 43? Age 87? What would you invest your time in? What choices would you make and who would you be willing to hurt? Would you accept your fortune as inevitable or would you fight to change it?

(I rushed to get The Immortalists from the library after reading Anne’s review so if I haven’t convinced you, maybe she will!)

12 thoughts on “Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! It’s an interesting book isn’t it? And I liked how you pointed out how well Benjamin illustrates how complicated siblings are-so very true!

    1. I really liked that aspect of it. And such an interesting read over all. Hard to review though because I didn’t want to give anything away!

  2. Interesting premise. I’d like to know roughly six months ahead, so I could a) tidy and declutter my house b) stop worrying about whether I’m eating too much cake and c) read the best books on the TBR! Thanks… 😉

    1. I don’t think I’d want to know…I’m happy to keep eating cake and let my house be untidy! If only we all knew what the best books were going to be on our TBR though.

  3. I already came close to buying this book twice, but did not. I feel that some things in there I will enjoy such as thought-provoking, philosophical content, and others I will not. I understand that this book is fantasy-like, but I still believe that no one in their right mind would want to find out the date of their death because after gaining that knowledge, let’s be frank, there will no longer be any more “life” for that person as we all know it. That is something that can never be unlearned and that person will no longer be “living”, but waiting for death.

    1. I completely agree with you; I wouldn’t want to know. That’s an issue that Benjamin deals with in the book. There’s also the question of whether or not the characters believe the dates are true. I think one smart thing she does is that the four characters are children when they visit the fortune teller and I think this is more believable. A child might not think through what this knowledge means and how it could affect their lives.

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