"Most adults claim not to believe in magic, but Klara knows better. Why else would anyone play at permanence- fall in love, have children, buy a house- in the face of all evidence there's no such thing? " p. 103
When I started The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, graciously given to me by Putnam books to review and share, I was excited but also a little nervous. I had been looking forward to this book for months and after talking to Chloe on IG a few times (she is the sweetest human) I was starting to worry...what if I didn't like it? I finally had a quiet evening ahead of me so I lit my favorite winter candle and settled in to read the prologue, wondering what I would think.
You guys. THIS BOOK. Now I am worried I have set my reading expectations for 2018 so high nothing else stands a chance at comparing (or at the very least getting a five star review). I finished the prologue, set the book down and took a deep breath. Already the Gold siblings were getting under my skin, in a good way. I am the oldest of four, we have the same Girl Boy Girl Boy age difference and I can see a little of each of us in each of them. It was slightly unnerving to then in my mind picture myself waiting in a dingy hallway to find out our fortune, knowing I would go last because I am the oldest. Wondering if my siblings were all okay.
These thoughts carried me through the rest of the story, as I met and grieved with each of the Gold siblings. Simon and his courage to live the life he wanted, Klara and her determination and belief in the power of magic, desperately trying to make her audience feel. Daniel and his steadfastness and quiet intelligence. Varya and her loneliness, hurt by so much and unable to break free from its weight. Each character brilliantly written, memorable in not just their actions but also their personalities.
Then there is the question. Would you want to know the day of your death? What would you do if you knew when it was? I thought these were easy questions before I started this book. Obviously, yes and then I would APPRECIATE EVERY DAY and LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST right? Right???! Except those questions aren't really all that easy. As Chloe's story weaves in and around the fortune teller's predictions for each of the Gold siblings, you slowly realize how devastating that afternoon was for each of them. How it pointed their lives down paths they may not have taken otherwise (good or bad) and the emotional toll of this knowledge pulled them apart from each other. It created a separation between them and any other person walking down the street. The ripple effect of the knowing was far reaching and frankly, catastrophic for all of them.
I grieved alongside Varya throughout the entire book, even though we don't really "meet" her until the end. As the oldest, it was all too easy to imagine how she felt. Her responsibility as the oldest, caring for her mother and pushing away her own feelings and needs to ease the monumental pain that she had already endured. Too much.
Altogether, this book created in me such a feeling of hope. Hope in the unknown and the power of it. We don't need all of the answers (look how that turned out for the Gold siblings) to live a full life. I think that is what I took away from The Immortalists. That the power of the not knowing how much time we all have is what makes life full, what makes it something to appreciate and be grateful for every morning. Chloe wove these themes brilliantly all the way to the end, in such a way that will make this story one I will remember and treasure for a long time.
Thank you so much to Putnam for sending me a copy of The Immortalists! And well done Chloe. You deserve every bit of praise and five star review.
Other memorable quotes:
"She held them in her mind so that she could feel nothing else- she loved them and loved them until they disarmed her, made her strong and broke her open, gave her powers she did not normally have." p.117