The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Published by Tinder Press
It's 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they're about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.
Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat and defy the 'knowledge' given to them that day - but it will shape the course of their lives forever.
So as the cover of the book says "If you knew the day you were going to die, how would you choose to live?" and this is pretty much what the story is about. The four Gold siblings hear about a mysterious woman who lives in an apartment block who can, apparently, tell you the day that you are going to die. Being young children (aged between 7 and 13) they are indeed fascinated by this, and ask around to try to find out where she lives so that they can visit her. Armed with this information, and their saved pocket money, they pay her a visit and one by one learn of their fate.
The Golds are a Jewish family made up of Saul, Gertie and their four children Daniel, Varya, Katya and Simon. Each is very different from other and each follows a different path as they grow into adulthood. Katya and Simon escape New York to move to San Francisco; Katya to persue her love of magic and Simon to follow a calling that he feels he cannot persue on America's east coast. Daniel becomes a doctor involved with the American army and Varya is a scientist. Despite their close bond, the visit to the fortune teller tears a hole in their relationship. Simon will not reveal his date, only to say that it is 'early' and Varya cannot comprehend her lengthy sentence she has been given. They rarely speak of it, but it haunts them all.
The Immortalists is broken up into sections where we as a reader focus on one sibling at a time - we follow their destiny and their fate as one by one they die when the fortune teller tells them they will. Chloe Benjamin raises an interesting concept - if we knew how long we had in this lifetime, how would we live our lives, and would we do anything differently, or would it be like having a life sentence constantly hanging around us whereby we were just waiting for the day to arrive?
This was a really great book and I loved the stories told. My favourite sibling I think was Katya and I was sad when her story was up. I predict only high praise for this book.
Miss Chapters x