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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Published January 2018
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Four siblings in 1960s New York find out that an old woman can tell them the exact dates of their deaths.
It’s a simple premise. Kids seek out a fortune-telling lady who can predict the date someone will die. Being naive children who don’t think through the implications, they get their answers.
And their lives change forever in the wake of the five-minute fortunes they each received.
The siblings’ predicted lifespans vary from tragically short to long and protracted. One embraces life’s pleasures. Another is a frustrating exercise in missed opportunities. All four of them have the shadow of the woman’s prediction darkening their paths.
The Immortalists raises several questions related to fate and knowing too much.
Here are four things to ponder. While central to the story, they also serve as interesting hypotheticals to ask ourselves.
If you could know the exact day you’ll die, would you want that knowledge?
If you knew your date of death, would it affect the way you live?
Would you see a prediction as a changeable suggestion, or immovable fate?
Say, for example, you’re predicted to die young. So you live with reckless abandon, indulging in vices and risky behavior, sucking the marrow out of life. Are you making the most of the time you have? Or are you, in fact, hurtling toward you own death? By living dangerously, did you turn the prediction into a self-fulfilling prophecy? Would you have died young anyway?
Would knowing your date of death change the way you love?
Think about the caution someone feels after heartbreak. In the wake of healing the battered and lovelorn heart, they may tiptoe into new relationships with care and reservation.
If you know when you or a loved one would die, would you hold yourself back, knowing it will all go away? You know it will hurt like hell when it happens. Do you keep at least some of that love to yourself?
The answers to the first two questions for the characters in The Immortalists are yes and yes. Yes, they want to know when they’ll die. Yes, the knowledge alters their paths dramatically.
The third and fourth questions, though, take more pondering. Benjamin masterfully raises these questions through the narrative, leaving us to wonder about them still after finishing the book. Did they create their own fates?
I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Check out my step-by-step article on how to read books for free or cheap through NetGalley or the Overdrive app.