Sad, Tragic and Thought Provoking
had heard so much about The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin when it was first introduced. Sometimes when a book receives so much hype, I tend to be disappointed but I was not disappointed at all with this one. I listened to the audio CD version read by Maggie Hoffman and enjoyed it very much.
The story began on New York City's Lower East Side in 1969. I remember frequenting some of the same streets as a young girl when I accompanied my parents on shopping excursions and an occasional lunch. The Gold family, a religious Jewish family, lived there with their four children. Varya was the oldest at 13, Daniel came next at 11, Klara was 9 and the youngest was Simon who was 7. One hot summer day, the children were bored of being cooped up in their apartment so Daniel told his siblings that he had heard about a traveling psychic who could predict the exact date a person would die. The children all agree that it would be fun to meet her and see what she had to say. They pooled their money, agreeing that if they got to meet her they should pay her something. Daniel led his siblings to the address where the psychic lived. The psychic agreed to meet with the children but she insisted that she meet with each child alone. One by one, the children went into the psychic's apartment and came out trembling and upset. The psychic had told each child the exact date they would die. That information and experience haunted the children into adulthood and for the remainder of each of their lives. They never shared the information with their parents or with each other.
As the book progresses, each child's story is revealed. Simon, the youngest, runs away from home with his sister Klara. The two settle in San Francisco where Simon reveals his sexual preferences. Admitting to Klara that he is gay he fits right into the scene in San Francisco during the 1980's and the beginning of the Aids epidemic. Klara becomes a magician, a life long dream of hers. Daniel studies medicine and becomes an army doctor and Varya becomes a research scientist using monkeys to study longevity. Throughout each of the Gold siblings' lives, the fortune tellers predictions were never far from their thoughts. They drifted apart from each other and yet they remained distantly close. Their mother, Gertie Gold, remained a constant influence on the Gold children throughout her life as did the memories of their father.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was sad, tragic and thought provoking. Each one of the four Gold siblings allowed the prophesies of the fortune teller to almost dictate how they led their lives. The stigma of the knowledge of knowing when they were supposed to die prevented them to live their lives in more positive and meaningful ways. I really enjoyed listening to The Immortalists and recommend it highly.