Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally, I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye:
the immortalists (Chloe Benjamin)
The tagline “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?” is what drew me to this novel. I thought it was going to be a fantasy or sci-fi title which is why I read it. Turns out it really is more of a historical fiction novel with a great premise and a not so great resolution.
This story tells the tale of four Jewish siblings who grow up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In 1969 the siblings hear about a mystic who can tell ye the date of yer death. So the siblings set off to hear their fortunes. This be the tale of how they react to their news and what happens to them.
I thought the writing was good and the story was compelling in the sense that I had to know how it ended. I listened to the audiobook and thought that the narration by Maggie Hoffman was very well done. But while I enjoyed many elements of the story, I thought that overall what happens to them was kinda crazy and over-the-top.
The beginning of the novel up to what happened to the first brother, Simon was the best part. I loved the story of the siblings childhood and how they end up visiting the mystic. Simon ends up going to San Francisco with his sister Klara. Simon is gay and readin’ about the 1980s gay community was interesting though I wasn’t prepared for the number of sex scenes in this section. Simon was by far me favourite sibling. Klara’s tale of wanting to be a female magician is where the book started to fail me. It wasn’t that the subject material or character were uninteresting. It was here where the author’s choices weren’t to me liking.
The Klara section was so drawn out. How Klara dies was also just so odd. The author also chooses to make the details of this death vague. I thought it was a lame way to make the prophecy come true. There was a cool setup for a stalker subplot that was a red herring. The next section dealt with Daniel and I kinda hated it. His section felt rushed and how he died and all the events around it were just ridiculous. The last section dealt with the sister Varya. She was a compelling character with OCD and was a science researcher. But her subplot (no details cause spoilers) was also silly. The ending of her section irked me.
Other problems were that the mystic used the trope of being a Roma and that I hated the mother’s character and how everyone bent to her will. I feel like I didn’t like the book even though I enjoyed the experience of listening to it. I think it is a great character study with a not so great plot. But this was a New York Times bestseller and a NPR book of the year so what do I know? Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?
It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.
The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.
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