If you could find out the exact date of your death, would you? And if you did, what would you do with this knowledge?
This is the question that informs The Immortalists. The Gold siblings are barely teenagers when they seek out a fortune teller who can allegedly tell you the day you die. One by one they are told their dates and the book then follows them over the next decades, through their lives and deaths.
The book is divided into four sections, following each sibling. They are vastly different characters but each fascinating and well drawn. Their interactions with each other are especially well-portrayed, I thought. Overall, they are not particularly close, years passing between meetings for some. But when they are together they have a clear and beautiful closeness, a history and relationship that is uniquely that of brothers and sisters. No one knows you in the way a sibling does and Benjamin portrays that so well, in all its complex beauty and sorrow. As such, the Golds’ parents are also a key part of the story even though we get only glimpses of them up close. The way their father’s death shaped them, the choices their mother made for herself and her children.
The less you know about how each sibling turns out, the better, I think, when beginning this novel, which makes it hard to write a review. I don’t want to tell you whether or not each fortune turns out to be true but it is an interesting examination of the power of thought. How would you live your life if you believed you were to die at 20? Or if you had until age 43? Age 87? What would you invest your time in? What choices would you make and who would you be willing to hurt? Would you accept your fortune as inevitable or would you fight to change it?
(I rushed to get The Immortalists from the library after reading Anne’s review so if I haven’t convinced you, maybe she will!)