Thursday, December 20, 2018

Book Review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Initially, I didn't want to read this book. I picked it up at a trade show or somewhere, but the plot didn't appeal to me at all: Four kids find out when they're going to die, and how that knowledge affects their life. It sounded kind of precious and like it would be inspirational and I just thought "bleh." So when it was being bandied about as a potential book club choice I lobbied against it. I lost. Thankfully.

They are four siblings, and the youngest is pretty darn young. After the opener, we track their individual stories until they die, starting with the youngest child, Simon. At the behest of his older sister, Klara, who has already decided she's leaving home for California when she graduates high school, he joins her and they head for San Francisco, where Klara knows things will be easier for Simon, who is gay. It's the late 1970s and he gets a job as a go-go dancer at a club and during the day he takes ballet to be better at dancing, and ballet quickly turns into his passion. While his demise was the most predictable, given where he is and when, it was (for me at least) the most heartbreaking. I almost wanted to close the book at the end of his section and call it a day, because it felt like a perfect story at that point.

Meanwhile Klara has started to pursue her dream of being a magician. Daniel becomes an army doctor, certifying new recruits as able to serve. And oldest sister Varya becomes a medical researcher, looking into aging.

The big debate is whether or not this knowledge changed their actions. If it lead Simon to behave more recklessly, which then lead to his early death, or if he would have died anyway. Do we truly have free will? How much of this was a self-fulfilling prophecy because they let it get into their heads and mess them up? For the siblings with longer to live, was that a blessing or a curse? There was much to discuss and much to think about. This book will stick with me. It was an amazing story.

I was given a free Advance Reader Copy of this book by someone associated with the publisher, but I don't remember who. A friend? Did I pick it up at a trade show? Anyway, I didn't buy it or promise anything for it.

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