The Immortalists ~ by Chloe Benjamin
Putnam ~ 2018
My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️s
Genre: Literary Fiction ~ Pages: 343
“If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” This is such an interesting tag line that really draws you in, however, I feel like this doesn’t really do the book justice. This tag line gives you the idea that this book is about fate, which is what I was expecting going into it. But this book really connects to choices, specifically, the choices we make based on a perceived fate. Halfway through I kept thinking that it should really read, “If you thought you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life.” This book is truly a magical contemplation of uncertainty, fate vs. choice, and the unbreakable bonds of family, and home. Here’s my breakdown:
• What I loved most:
The Magic element (mainly in Klara’s story) ~
Even though Bruna (the fortune teller) is not a main character in the novel, her presence runs through the lives of the Gold siblings. I really liked the way the book grappled with the difficultly in painting Bruna as the villain. Raj claims that it is the magician’s job is to force the person to make a choice. (Pick a certain card out of the deck, ect.) There is even a name of this type of magic trick, “forcing.” Klara, Raj and Bruna are all have a similar profession in this regard. Even Klara states, “if all magic exists alongside reality-two faces gazing in different direction, like the head of Janus- then Klara can’t be the only one able to access it. If she doubts the woman (Bruna), then she has to doubt herself.” But the book makes you ask yourself, “where do we draw the line with magic?” Is forcing someone to pick a certain card out of the deck different then forcing someone to believe that they have a specific number of days left on earth? Is all magic the same? In the book, magic takes on both a serious and playful tone. Klara compares it several times to religion; it’s just another tool in coping with the uncertainty of life to her:
“You could call it a trapdoor, a hidden compartment, or you could call it God: a placeholder for what we don’t know. A space where the impossible becomes possible. When he said (her father) the kiddish or lit the candles on Shabbat, he was doing magic tricks.”
But that it can also help us deal with the uncertainty of life: “Some magicians say that magic shatters your worldview. But I think magic holds the world together. It’s dark matter; it’s the glue of reality, the putty that fills the holes between everything we know to be true. And it takes magic to reveal how inadequate-reality is.”
This was such a compelling theme running throughout the novel and I would have loved more of it.
• What I’m still on the fence about- didn’t hate, but didn’t love:
The writing style ~ Benjamin’s writing style feels very much like a montage. Each sibling’s life is woven together through quick, clean prose that I can only describe as a montage of the most important events in their lives. Time is not linear, but instead events are jumbled together. For the most part I really enjoyed this style and its uniqueness, however, there were moments were it felt a little jarring to jump around so quickly from event to event.
The ending ~ Because the book was stirring up such interesting questions and thoughts about life/death, uncertainty, and reality vs. imagination, I was really excepting an amazing ending to tie it all together. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get that. I didn’t dislike the ending, I was just expecting a little more.
Overall take away: this book has definitely left a lasting impression on me. I don’t think I’ll be able to let The Gold siblings go anytime soon. I would truly recommend this book to everyone. Even though the book brings up some dark questions, it’s surprisingly comforting at the same time. We all deal with uncertainty and we grapple with the question of “time.” No matter how hard we try to understand our “fates,” whether through religion, or superstition, or magic, it’s impossible for us to truly “know,” but if we spend your lives obsessing over these questions, we will miss out on the beauty of the here and now.
If you have read this, or plan to, let me know!! Happy Reading ~ XO