Immortalists (Benjamin)

The Immortalists 
Chloe Benjamin, 2018
Penguin Group
352 pp.
ISBN-13:
9780735213180


Summary
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. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1988
Where—San Francisco, California, USA
Education—B.A., Vassar; M.F.A., University of Wisconsin
Awards—Edna Ferber Book Award
Currently—lives in Madison, Wisconsin


Chloe Krug Benjamin was born in San Francisco, CA. Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams (2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her second novel, The Immortalists (2018) is published in over 13 countries, and TV/film rights have sold to the Jackal Group.

A graduate of Vassar College and of the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chloe also teaches workshops on the business of publishing, from writing a novel to finding a literary agent. She lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews
(Starred review.) An imaginative and satisfying family saga…. The four Gold siblings are wonderful creations, and in Benjamin’s expert hands their story becomes a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) The narratives [Benjamin] offers are intriguingly intertwined and beautifully rendered.… Thought-provoking and entertaining.
Library Journal


(Starred review.) Bewitching and provocative.… Benjamin has created mesmerizing characters and richly suspenseful predicaments in this profound and glimmering novel of death’s ever-shocking inevitability and life’s wondrously persistent whirl of chance and destiny.
Booklist


[T]he fortuneteller’s death dates is inexplicably credulous, though suggestions of a self-fulfilling prophecy muddy the waters a bit.… Benjamin’s premise situates her novel in magical territory, but the spell doesn't quite work,
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. The Immortalists explores the degree to which we shape our own destinies — do you believe that the siblings’ fate was preordained? Why or why not?

2. The novel takes place in very different settings — 1960s New York City, the San Francisco dance scene, glitzy Las Vegas hotels. In what ways do these locations affect the characters? Why do you think all four of the siblings moved away from New York City?

3. The Immortalists is narrated by the four siblings in separate sections. What was your reading experience when you switched sections? Did you identify more closely with certain siblings?

4. The power of belief — whether it be magic, religious faith, or storytelling — is an important theme in the novel. How does belief affect each of the siblings? What is different or similar about the stories they tell themselves?

5. At its heart, The Immortalists is a family love story, exploring both past and future generations of the Gold family. In what ways does family history shape us? What kind of legacies do the four siblings leave behind?

6. How do magic and reality blur in the novel? Were there any particular moments that seemed to defy logic? Why are certain characters drawn to magic and the unknowable more than others?

7. Discuss the siblings’ significant others: Raj, Mira, and Robert. How are their lives affected by the prophecy? How do romantic and familial relationships interact and contrast in The Immortalists?

8. At the end of the novel, Gertie tells Varya about the beauty and freedom in uncertainty, questioning why her children believed the fortune teller. Did you believe the fortune teller? What gives the fortune teller her power? What freedoms does uncertainty bring?

9. What do you imagine happens to Varya after the book ’s ending? How have her views on longevity and death changed?

10. Would you want to find out the date of your death? How would you live your life differently if you had this information?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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