Enjoyed it

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One of my 2018 goals was to get involved in book clubs. I joined a few book clubs in college, but they were all too… academic. I love reading non-fiction about my field, classics, and things that are regarded as more “literary,” but I also love contemporary fiction. More specifically, I LOVE thrillers. I’m trying to challenge myself to engage in a greater variety of genres, so a book club or two sounded like a great idea.

I am so grateful for my book clubs. I’ve read dozens of books that I would never pick out on my own. The Immortalists was one of them.

Here’s what it’s about: 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 struggles to maintain 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. Both a dazzling family love story and 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.

I do love historical fiction. I loved the beginning of the story, which starts in 1969. I always try to imagine what I would have been like in different time periods. I couldn’t help but think how great it was that these four children just played outside without a care in the world about iPads. I was so impressed with how Benjamin wrote about five different decades. She was able to develop some characters from children, to teenagers, to older adults.

The premise is unique: if you could find out your date of death, would you? I know I wouldn’t! I would have so much anxiety and I would fear of self-fulfilling prophecies – which was a big part of the story.

The summary tells us that death will be part of the story. A few deaths were highly predictable – from the very beginning. For example, a young, gay, promiscuous teenage boy moves to San Francisco in the 1980s… gee, I wonder what’s going to happen. A few other instances were equally predictable, but as mentioned above, I tend to gravitate toward thriller/suspense/mystery, so I expect twists.

But this wasn’t really a book for twists. And that’s okay.

I actually really enjoyed the narrative. After the death prophecies, the remaining 80% of the book is devoted equally to each of the four siblings. We learn how their visit with the psychic affected them immediately and down the road. We learn about the siblings’ relationships with one another. Each relationship is complicated yet remarkable in its own way.

Though the book lacks twists, it does have some surprising moments, especially in Varya’s narrative. She seemed like the perfect child throughout the book, and I kept wondering about her downfall…. or “fatal flaw” if you will. I was really hoping she wasn’t a static character. But Benjamin did not disappoint! Varya turned out to be the most complex character of all with a big secret that made for a perfect ending.

I am so glad I gave this story a chance. If you are intrigued by death, sibling relationships, psychics, or self-awareness, this is definitely your book.