The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is the story of four siblings, Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon Gold. On a hot summer day in 1969, the four pay a visit to a woman who can tell them when they will die.
Each sibling must come to terms with the knowledge in their own way and each faces the question of whether that knowledge informs the way they live. Complicating each of their lives is their relationships to each other and their parents, Gertie and Saul.
Those of us with siblings will recognize the way the siblings’ relationships are formed at an early age and no matter what life throws at them, they will always see each other in those roles. No matter how far someone goes, or who they meet, or what they do, the brothers and sisters at home will always see them as the youngest who was Mom’s favorite, or the oldest who insisted on the top bunk or the middle child who had to do things opposite everyone else.
Within those relationships, there is also the secret knowledge each Gold sibling keeps for themselves. For some, it’s the date of their death, for others, their lives are the secret they keep. We always believe we know our siblings best, even as we believe ourselves to be mysterious and unknowable. For the Gold siblings, they each believe the knowledge of their death dates is both the reason and excuse for their siblings choices and lives, while their own lives are rational.
Although the blurbs seem to want the reader to believe the book is an esoteric meditation on death, I found the relationships between the siblings and their parents to be more central. The lives and deaths of the Golds show that words have power and sometimes the words not spoken have even more.