The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
We’ve all heard that age-old expression “never judge a book by it’s cover” - well I did for this one, oops. As I walked around my local bookstore trying to find a couple new reads to add to my ever growing list, I looked at a display table with lots of book-ish trinkets and reached for this book. I hate to say it, but sometimes having a catchy title or well-designed cover is too good to pass up. In this case, my shallow, aesthetic choice paid off - Yay!
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin centers around four siblings who discover their “death date” by a gypsy seer they heard about as bored, curious children during their summer vacation. Subsequent of their visit with the seer, the concept of destiny versus choice is echoed throughout the book. The Immortalists touches on contrasting reactions to finding out a life-changing piece of information. Knowing your fate, how would that determine how you lived your life?...Would you live life more recklessly and be determined to fit all that life has to offer in the time you have? Or would you live in fear and paranoia, constantly avoiding potential dangers and maintaining safe, stable choices to hopefully cheat death and live longer than prophesied?
This book is broken down into four parts. Each part is devoted to one of the four siblings: Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya. Through each section, we glimpse into their unique lives and how the knowledge they received from the seer impacts the four sibling’s decisions and paths in varying aspects. The Gold siblings all are incredibly diverse in personalities and are affected by their pending mortality in ways that create a shift in each other’s outcomes. It is intriguing how Benjamin portrays them all as extremely independent characters, but has them so emotionally connected to each other by their familial bond and unconditional love.
The name of the book in and of itself is layered in it’s meaning. On a surface-level, it is apparent that the story will involve some theme of immortality. The idea that immortality through knowing the date of your deaths could be seen as freeing. By this I mean that because the characters are aware of their expiration dates, they then feel invincible. Regardless of their choices, they feel they will live until their foreseen demise and can then live recklessly as they will not die prior to that date. Immortality is also shown by some character’s obsession with needing to outlast/ outwit their unavoidable deaths. Lastly, it is mirrored through Klara, who is the second youngest sibling, dreams of becoming a magician. With Klara’s love for magic, she becomes metaphorically immortalized and portrays the perception of immortality by performing impossible stunts and death-defying tricks.
Honestly, as someone who is a huge nerd for “this or that” type games such as, “would you rather live your whole life with only a fork or only a spoon?” - The Immortalists really hit that sweet spot for me. I enjoy having big, obscure, no absolute answer-type questions thrust upon me. I will also admit that I force those kinds of questions on others more than they probably appreciate! The Immortalists made me really think...What would I have done if I had three siblings who all trekked off to find out their death destiny? Would I go with them and find out when I am supposed to die? Would I stubbornly opt out? If I did go, would it haunt me until my end came or would I dismiss it as just some kooky lady’s scam? I want to know, what did you determine and whether you would live with the mindset of it being a destiny or a choice? Please share your perspective!