As regular readers probably know, in December I started having some trouble with my eyes. Reading becams difficult, but I perservered as long as I could. This forced me to become extremely discriminating in what I read until it became just impossible to read either print, on my iPad or the last to go, my Kindle. This is the last book I chose to start. I only got about a third of the way through it and I was so involved I even tried having my Kindle read it to me but I just couldn’t cope with that. So I set it aside. I had surgery, and week of horrendous recovery, and a few more weeks of tolerable recovery and my eyesight seemed to improve daily. It’s still not great, and computers are the most difficult for me to manage, but I have managed to read on my Kindle again. At first, I could only read for about ten minutes at a time, then my eyes would tire. So it took me an extraordinarily long time to finish this book, but I am so glad I did.
The story starts out in the late 1960’s on the Lower East side of New York. The Gold family, four siblings, have heard about a fortune teller who has recently come to their neighborhood. Apparently, she can predict the date of each client’s death. Intrigued, the children find her, and one at a time, she tells them their death dates. They are freaked out, as they should be, and take off without even paying her. But their lives are never really the same after that.
They don’t all share their dates, but hints are dropped. As they get older, this information steers how they live their lives. The youngest, Simon, realizes as a teen that he is gay and his sister Klara encourages him to move to San Francisco, and she lives with him. This is in the 1980’s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis and Harvey Milk and more. Klara becomes a magician and eventually moves to Las Vegas. The oldest son, Daniel, becomes a doctor and works for the armed services, determining who is fit to become a soldier and Vanya, the oldest daughter, becomes a research scientist studying, not ironically, longevity.
The book follows each of the lives until their deaths. It obviously poses the philosophical question if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently? But it delves even further than that into relationships, both familial and others. It is beautifully written and each character drives their own story. Worthy of all the praise it has received, and certainly worthy of discussion. It is not a stretch to say that I’m sure it will be on my best books of the year list.
2/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; First Edition edition (January 9, 2018). ISBN 978-0735213180. 352p.