The Immortalists
December 28, 2018 5:29 PM - by Chloe Benjamin - Subscribe

From Amazon’s description: “If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. In search of one thing they can know for sure, the Gold children -- four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness -- sneak out to hear their fortunes.”
posted by CMcG (6 comments total)
There were times when the book lost me, usually as it shifted from one perspective to another. Looking back, I’d say that’s a testament to how invested I got in each character’s story.
posted by CMcG at 5:44 PM on December 28, 2018

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I didn't like most of the Gold kids at all. The fringe characters were pretty great, and I would have preferred their stories without the Gold's and their manufactured and overblown tragedies.

I liked Simon's story well enough, but I didn't like the way Klara made the prophesy come true. I know she spent her life looking for magic, but I would expect a stage magician to be less susceptible to woo. I'm more used to thinking of magicians as debunkers and skeptics. Even though Houdini really wanted to believe he saw through the charlatans and I can't imagine him killing himself just to make a prophecy come true.

Then, by the time we get to Daniel's obsession with the psychic leading to his eventual "A Meeting with Death" style resolution, I was like why is this entire family so twisted up in this silly drama. I could see the encounter making an impression on one of the kids. Maybe Simon as the youngest and it did make sense that he might try to cram as much life in as possible if he thought he had a short clock. For all the rest though, it seems like it would be a bit of an adventure that would be quickly forgotten.

I know the premise of the book is what if you knew when you were going to die, but I guess I just reject the premise.
posted by willnot at 7:57 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I found this book heavy and dark, but parts of it have stuck with me, particularly the bit with Simon in San Francisco. It's such an evocative description of the period when people didn't really know what AIDS was, but it was claiming more and more lives. I thought that section was the best bit of the book.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:54 PM on December 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

willnot, I liked that the author gave voice to those things through Raj. Raj deserved more pages! I definitely wanted to know more about his life. Also Bruna’s.
posted by CMcG at 7:35 AM on December 29, 2018

Agreed, hurdy gurdy girl, that Simon’s was the best part. I guessed his fate almost immediately and even knowing what was coming, it was heartbreaking and very well done.

I thought the book went off the rails a bit in the last section but even so it’s one of my top reads for the year.
posted by something something at 3:24 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree completely with willnot's take on this book. I went in really wanting to like this, but the way the story unfolded annoyed me more than anything. Neither Klara & Daniel changed how they lived based on knowing their outcome apart from acting on it on their actual day. Heck, Daniel's life was probably more changed by Simon running away than what the old lady told him.

One of the things that I think went wrong in my opinion was that the siblings barely interacted with each other on the page and yet so much of their story was driven by their loss to each other. I feel like their sadness over the others' deaths (or eventual deaths) would have been more earned if it was ever revealed that they even liked each other as adults.

Agreed also that the secondary characters were more interesting than the siblings themselves. Maybe that's the moral.
posted by Jugwine at 7:08 AM on January 29, 2019

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