It was on a Tuesday of July 1969 that Daniel Gold, eleven,
heard boys talking about a fortune teller who could predict the
exact date of one's death. While boys will be boys, Daniel's
sister Varya, thirteen, doesn't want to know; nine year-old
Klara Gold looks into divination, and seven year-old Simon,
well, what did he know. And so, all four Gold siblings went to
have their fortune told. But would they have gone if they
hadn't been so bored that particular day? Would their lives
have been the same? Only God knows.
Predestination is a favorite philosophical topic of mine, which
attracted me to THE IMMORTALISTS, and maybe my perception of
what awaited me was skewed from the onset, as I was looking
forward to a captivating look on choice versus destiny.
Instead, THE IMMORTALISTS felt more like a family saga
augmented by a mountainous quantity of superfluous details with
regards to the story arc. Part One, which takes about one-third
of the book almost feels like an exposé of the emergence of San
Francisco as the 1970s mecca for gay men. I really liked the
story and the characters, especially the part about ballet,
which rather lengthy fit in and contributed to character
development; and the featured Gold did something constructive,
if reckless. In Part Two, we are treated to an abundance of
segments on magic tricks, illusionism, and the Las Vegas of the
1970s. As for Part Three, I'm sorry to say, towards the end I
couldn't help thinking: "What an idiot", or that's how
reacts to believing in fortune tellers. Part Four was, in my
opinion, more interesting because things really happen, or
rather things happen to a Gold sibling, who reacts in a way
that held my attention.
In truth, I preferred some secondary characters to the leads:
Robert, who is absolutely lovely; Ruby, and Frida. I would have
rather read the characters' thought process for the choices
they made rather than endure endless descriptions, extensive
backstories of very minor characters, or lessons on various
subjects. I felt all this information distracted from the topic
-- as well as from the characters themselves -- and made the
story unnecessarily heavy. In short, readers who avoid heavy
philosophical debates need not worry about picking up THE
IMMORTALISTS; while I found it lacking from a philosophical
angle, as a chronicle of the lives of brothers and sisters over
four decades, it works well.
A dazzling family love story reminiscent of Everything
I Never Told You from a novelist heralded by Lorrie
Moore as a "great new talent."
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live
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.
Their 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, hoping to
control fate; 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.