I am but one of a number of Cannonballers who have read The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin so far this year! And for the most part I enjoyed it, as I know some others did. Though I think the front half really got me more so than the latter half, which is not to say that things don’t all come together and create a beautiful story, but I think it really boils down to feeling more of a connection with some of the characters whose points of view are focused on earlier on.
The Immortalists tells the story of four siblings named Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya, who, when children faced with another boring day one summer, decide to go see a fortune teller who will tell them the day that they will die. While one of the siblings is told she faces a long life ahead, the others are decidedly shorter. From there, the novel focuses on each sibling’s story one by one, and the events of their life leading to their death, before picking up with the next sibling in line: Simon moves to San Francisco and pursues a career in dance, while Klara goes with Simon to follow her dream of being a magician and performer like her grandmother. Meanwhile, the other two stay close to home and follow their already decided paths of going to college, with Daniel becoming a doctor and Varya doing research in aging and longevity. Each of the siblings is affected differently in some way in regards to the prophecy of their death: for some it acts as a push to go out and live their lives in extreme ways, but for others it is more the deaths of their family that starts to shape their lives and decisions.
The stories that I felt the most drawn to out of all of them were those of Simon and Klara. In some ways, Simon’s outcome is predictable (you learn a few details about him and you just know where it’s all going to go), but I think it is the direct link to Klara and him pursuing their lives together that makes the way these two stories intertwine some of the most interesting. I also found it difficult at times to understand the motives of Daniel and Varya, which is perhaps why their stories coming at the end made it feel like a bit of downhill slump from such a vibrant start. Though as I said, the ending does bring everything together in a resolution which makes sense.
The strongest aspect of The Immortalists is the weaving of questions regarding our decisions in life, our reactions to knowing our futures, as well as the emotions that we go through surrounding loss and where to go after this. It is a book full of relatable feelings, with a little bit of mysticism as well. In fact, with the somewhat magical elements of Klara’s story, I was surprised that there wasn’t more of that in the rest of the novel! But then again, I’m not sure how it might have fit in there, to be honest. So in the end, I’d say this was a pretty solid read, though wavered a bit for me at times, and in particular during the second half.
CBR10 Bingo Square: So Shiny!