The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin | Book Review

The Immortalists book cover

The Immortalists tells the stories of four siblings who, as children, visit a fortune teller who predicts the dates of their deaths. We follow them through their lives as they find themselves both consciously and subconsciously affected by the prophecies.

After the opening chapter, which documents the experience with the mystical fortune-teller, the book is divided into four main sections, each one following the life of a different sibling. As young adults, Simon and Klara head out to San Francisco to seek excitement, creative careers, and the ability to be themselves in a way they don’t believe is possible in their native Manhattan. Meanwhile, older siblings Daniel and Varya are left to care for their elderly mother and are forced to put their own lives on hold as a result.

It is never made clear whether the fortune teller’s predictions are destined to come true, or if simply the knowledge of them leads the siblings to choose paths which result in them coming true. It’s certainly an interesting concept and makes for a powerful story. But I must admit that I was expecting a tale with a little more magic and fantasy; ultimately The Immortalists is a contemporary coming-of-age story, packed with family drama and soul-searching, with the tiniest hint of magic on the side.

That doesn’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it. The characters are likeable and each has a unique voice, and I loved how the story spanned four decades with each one portrayed in vivid detail. It’s an enticing family saga with a very unique concept. However, it isn’t the most cheerful or uplifting read and I came away feeling… I don’t know. A bit hopeless, I suppose. It seems to send the message that life’s shit and then you die, which is a shame because I really don’t think it meant to. But it did also tell me that if I’m ever offered the opportunity to learn my destined death day, I probably shouldn’t take it. So that’s good.

In all seriousness, although it’s not the happiest of books, it is an enjoyable one. It’s got a thumbs up from me.

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Author: Ellie Scott

Ellie Scott is a freelance copywriter and fiction writer from Sheffield, UK. She writes speculative and silly short stories and flash fiction. In 2018 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Short Story Competition and published her first book, 'Merry Bloody Christmas: A Short Story Collection'. You can often find her hanging out on Twitter (@itsemscott), Instagram (@tinysillystories) and Medium (@elliemaryscott), or hibernating on her sofa with a book and a very large glass of gin.

One thought on “The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin | Book Review”

  1. I remember a young William Shatner walking away from a fortune telling machine with his new bride, to figure his future on his own in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Never a good idea to know your demise, but we are fascinated anyway. If I read this book (which you have made me curious) I’ll give you my feedback on the siblings knowing their future.

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