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The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

GENRE: Literary Fiction

What would you do if you knew the exact date of your death? Four young siblings struggle with this knowledge in four different ways. This book explores the relationship between fate and self determination, the complex relationships between siblings, and the choice between living long and living well.

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Author Biography

Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Immortalists, a New York Times bestseller, and The Anatomy of Dreams.

A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, LibraryReads favorite, and #1 Indie Next pick, The Immortalists was a named a best book of 2018 by NPR, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and others.

The Anatomy of Dreams received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Originally from San Francisco, CA, Chloe is a graduate of Vassar College and has a M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.  - Author's website

More titles by this author.



Restless during the  seismic summer of 1969 on New York’s Lower East Side, the  four Gold siblings, descendants of Jews who fled violent persecution overseas, sneak off to see a fortune-teller, who tells them each, separately, the  date of his or her death. So begins Benjamin’s bewitching and provocative second novel (following The Anatomy of Dreams, 2014). Each character’s story is saturated with paradox in this delving family saga laced with history and science and a heart-pounding inquiry into self, inheritance, fate, and the mind-body connection. At 16, Simon runs away to San Francisco, comes out as gay, and discovers his gift for dance just as AIDS begins its shattering assault. Magician Klara calls herself the Immortalist. Daniel is a military doctor; scientist Varya is conducting a longevity study with rhesus monkeys. All are afflicted by the poison of prophecy. Aligned in her artistic command, imagination, and deep curiosity about the human condition with Nicole Krauss, Dara Horn, and Stacey D’Erasmo, Benjamin asks what we want out of life. Duration? Success? Meaning? Who do we live for? Do our genes determine our path? How does trauma alter us? 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. -- Seaman, Donna (Reviewed 12/15/2017) (Booklist, vol 114, number 8, p87)

Publisher's Weekly

In her second novel, Benjamin (The Anatomy of Dreams) constructs an imaginative and satisfying family saga. In 1969, the four rambunctious Gold children, Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya, visit a psychic on Manhattan's Lower East Side who predicts the date each of them will die. The novel then follows how the siblings deal with news of their expiration dates. In the late '70s, Klara and Simon, the youngest, run off to San Francisco, where the closeted Simon becomes a dancer and Klara a magician and stage illusionist who believes she can commune with the spirits of dead relatives. In 2006, Daniel, a married army doctor based in Kingston, N.Y., learns that the psychic who foretold their fates is a con artist wanted by the FBI, and attempts to track her down. In 2010, Varya, the eldest Gold, is a longevity researcher who feels closest to the rhesus monkeys she uses for her experiments. But one day, a journalist named Luke interviews her and, in the process, changes the course of her life. The author has written a cleverly structured novel steeped in Jewish lore and the history of four decades of American life. 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. (Reviewed 10/23/2017)

Library Journal

An Edna Ferber Prize winner for The Anatomy of Dreams, Benjamin opens her second novel with four children in 1969 New York daringly visiting a fortune-teller said to be able to predict the date of one's death. Elder siblings Daniel and Varya grow up to become an army doctor and a scientist, respectively, while rebellious Klara works as a magician in Las Vegas and the  insouciant youngest, Simon, finds love and dance in San Francisco. Yet thinking they know when they will die powerfully shapes their lives, often to their detriment, and we see each sibling struggling with this burden in four distinct narratives. How differently would their lives have turned out had they not made that visit? Could Benjamin have told the story of four close and sometimes troubled siblings without recourse to this hint of magic? The answer to that last question is yes, as the narratives she offers are intriguingly intertwined and beautifully rendered. Yet the added dimension proves effective while feeling entirely natural, and readers can believe what they want of the fortune-teller's power. VERDICT Both thought-provoking and entertaining, this title is highly recommended for a wide range of readers. Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal --Barbara Hoffert (Reviewed 08/01/2017) (Library Journal, vol 142, issue 13, p76)


Eternal Life

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Ever since she made a deal to save her son's life in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rachel has been doomed to live eternally having hundreds of children and being stalked by an obsessed man, but as her descendants develop new technologies for immortality, she realizes that, for them to live fully, she must die.

The Children's Crusade

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When their younger sibling returns, the three oldest Blair children find their lives disrupted in ways they could have never imagined as they each tell their story that is interwoven with portraits of their family at crucial points in their history.


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