Thanks to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: 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.
The Immortalists is a work of literary fiction not really fantasy or magical realism as the synopsis suggests. I personally didn’t have a problem with that as I like literary fiction, but I just wanted to warn anyone thinking this was going to be more magical than it is.
The book focuses on how knowing the date of their death affects these four siblings and the life choices they make over the course of fifty years, While the debate over fate vs. self-fulfilling prophecy is brought up here and there, it’s not fully explored in depth which disappointed me.
My main issue though was with the characters. It’s not that they’re unlikable. It’s just that I didn’t find any of them particularly memorable. Simon’s story I actually found predictable and manipulative. I thought Klara who winds up in Vegas as a magician would be interesting, but wasn’t. I did like Daniel who becomes an army doctor and in the course of his work discovers something about the psychic who made the original predictions. But Varya was my favorite. As a scientist researching longevity with monkeys, I thought her story and perspective quite thought-provoking.
There were also some things about the author’s writing style that put me off such as completely random sexual references. For example, here’s how the book begins: “Varya is thirteen. New to her are three more inches of height and the dark patch of fur between her legs. Her breasts are palm sized, her nipples pink dimes.”Wait, what? Why on earth would you begin a book like this? There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it and right there I started thinking “Uh oh.”
Overall, I thought The Immortalists to have some intriguing ideas that just weren’t fleshed out completely. When you couple that with fairly mundane characters and a predictable plot, the story didn’t quite live up to its premise. I personally think there are other books out there about families that make much more of an impact, including: Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng; and Watching Glass Shatter, by our own James J. Cudney. The Immortalists isn’t a bad book. It’s just not one I’m going to remember in the long run. That said, this is getting a lot of 4-5 star reviews on Goodreads, so if you’re intrigued, I encourage you to check, it out for yourself.