I cannot think of a way to begin this post without a morbid thought so I’ll just come out and say it: this book is about death. Not just about the end of life, but life itself, and how would you spend it if you knew when your last day was coming. The four Gold siblings seek out a fortune-teller in 1969, who tells each of them the day they are going to die. The rest of the book is how each of them live with this knowledge, both in denial and obsessed with it, knowing their last day changes their courses and behavior, or was that how it was always meant to be?
I believe that while we see things as linear, with time progressing from beginning to end, our souls live outside of the dimensions of time, so that in a way, everything is always occurring. This gives me peace when loved ones have passed, I believe that somehow, our happy moments never leave us and somewhere they live on (my husband calls these my “hippie thoughts”, but hey, like I said it gives me peace). Of course, if everything is always occuring, that means that the date of death is already set, and there’s really nothing we can do to change it. The Immortalists is written with a similar premise, with each character continuing to their last day, even though the reader and the characters keep wondering if there is anything they can do that will alter it:
‘What if I change?’ she asked the fortune teller, all those years ago, sure that knowledge could save her from bad luck and tragedy. ‘Most people don’t,’ the woman said.”
When I started this book I thought it would have a bit of magical realism, but aside from the fortune telling, it is set firmly in reality; there is no whimsy in this book, I don’t even think there was one joke. As one could expect in a book about death, there is a good amount of heartache in this story, but the writing was beautiful and I think Benjamin did a good job of showing how each sibling felt and how that impacted their decision-making. This book is also about life, as each sibling chooses to spend it quite differently, and about family and sibling relationships, and Jewish culture. I would recommend it to anyone looking to read a strong piece of literary fiction or someone who enjoys philosophical questions of fate and destiny.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
I read this as: an audiobook from Audible