Our guest reviewer today is Leah DeCesare. Leah is the award-winning author of Forks, Knives, and Spoons and the non-fiction series Naked Parenting. You can visit her at www.LeahDeCesare.com. Thank you, Leah!
This book is getting much-deserved buzz and I am about to add my own praises. I first saw the cover at Book Expo in June and I was drawn to its black background and twinkly specks. And then, when I read the premise, I was hooked.
The Immortalists asks readers: “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” In New York City 1969, four young siblings visit a woman known for being able to predict a person’s death date. Separately, each child goes into the woman’s apartment and receives their forecast. This information affects their lives in ways they could never have anticipated.
The book is structured into four parts beginning with Simon, the youngest sibling, whose predicted date of death is the first of the four. He doesn’t share the exact date until that date arrives, previously only admitting, “Young,” when the other siblings reveal their own. The story continues on to the character with the next predicted death date and so on. As a writer, I admired this construct and how Benjamin tugs at the thread, tightening each part, linking them together and pulling us through to the end.
I love a book that forces us to ask questions, questions without right or definitive answers. It gives me a good think. The characters are so deeply affected by the news from the woman, and it impacts each of their lives in different ways. This knowledge, and their belief in the verity of the predictions, influences their life choices, their daily decisions. Do their decisions cause them to hurtle toward expectations? Could they have done something to alter the course? Does knowing something like your death date have a self-fulfilling-prophecy affect?
The Immortalists explores family connections and obligations, the uncertainty of what is real, or destiny, or science, or illusion, or magic. It’s a powerful story told with confidence, and it will be one of those books that remains with me for years beyond turning the last page.
In life, we’re each given a certain number of years, months, days and hours. Would you want to know the date of your death? Rich with opportunity for discussion, this makes the perfect book club pick. Don’t miss it!
Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Anatomy of Dreams, which received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the the NYTimes bestseller, The Immortalists. A graduate of Vassar College and of the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chloe also teaches workshops on the business of publishing, from writing a novel to finding a literary agent. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.