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The Immortalists
Cover of The Immortalists
The Immortalists
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A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Washington Post
NPR
Entertainment Weekly
Real Simple
Marie Claire
New York Public Library
LibraryReads
The Skimm
Lit Hub
Lit Reactor
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"A captivating family saga."—The New York Times Book Review

"This literary family saga is perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Donna Tartt."—People Magazine (Book of the Week)

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.
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Washington Post
NPR
Entertainment Weekly
Real Simple
Marie Claire
New York Public Library
LibraryReads
The Skimm
Lit Hub
Lit Reactor
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"A captivating family saga."—The New York Times Book Review

"This literary family saga is perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Donna Tartt."—People Magazine (Book of the Week)

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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book 1.


    When Saul dies, Simon is in physics class, drawing concentric circles meant to represent the rings of an electron shell but which to Simon mean nothing at all. With his daydreaming and his dyslexia, he has never been a good student, and the purpose of the electron shell—the orbit of electrons around an atom's nucleus—escapes him. In this moment, his father bends over in the crosswalk on Broome Street while walking back from lunch. A taxi honks to a stop; Saul sinks to his knees; the blood drains from his heart. His death makes no more sense to Simon than the transfer of electrons from one atom to another: both are there one moment, and gone the next.

    Varya drives down from college at Vassar, Daniel from SUNY Binghamton. None of them understand it. Yes, Saul was stressed, but the city's worst moments—the fiscal crisis, the blackout—are finally behind them. The unions saved the city from bankruptcy, and New York is finally looking up. At the hospital, Varya asks about her father's last moments. Had he been in any pain? Only briefly, says the nurse. Did he speak? No one can say that he did. This should not surprise his wife and children, who are used to his long silences—and yet Simon feels cheated, robbed of a final memory of his father, who remains as close-lipped in death as he was in life.

    Because the next day is Shabbat, the funeral takes place on Sunday. They meet at Congregation Tifereth Israel, the conservative synagogue of which Saul was a member and patron. In the entryway, Rabbi Chaim gives each Gold a pair of scissors for the kriah.

    "No. I won't do it," says Gertie, who must be walked through each step of the funeral as if through the customs process of a country she never meant to visit. She wears a sheath dress that Saul made for her in 1962: sturdy black cotton, with a dart-fitted waistline, front button closure, and detachable belt. "You can't make me," she adds, her eyes darting between Rabbi Chaim and her children, who have all obediently slit their clothes above the heart, and though Rabbi Chaim explains that it is not he who can make her but God, it seems that God can't, either. In the end, the rabbi gives Gertie a black ribbon to cut, and she takes her seat with wounded victory.

    Simon has never liked coming here. As a child, he thought the synagogue was haunted, with its rough, dark stone and dank interior. Worse were the services: the unending silent devotion, the fervent pleas for the restoration of Zion. Now Simon stands before the closed casket, air ­circulating through the slit in his shirt, and realizes he'll never see his ­father's face again. He pictures Saul's distant eyes and demure, almost feminine smile. Rabbi Chaim calls Saul magnanimous, a person of character and fortitude, but to Simon he was a decorous, timid man who skirted conflict and trouble—a man who seemed to do so little out of passion that it was a wonder he had ever married Gertie, for no one would have viewed Simon's mother, with her ambition and pendulum moods, as a pragmatic choice.

    After the service, they follow the pallbearers to Mount Hebron Cemetery, where Saul's parents were buried. Both girls are weeping—Varya silently, Klara as loudly as her mother—and Daniel seems to be holding himself together out of nothing more than stunned obligation. But Simon finds himself unable to cry, even as the casket is lowered into the earth. He feels only loss, not of the father he knew but of the person that Saul might have been. At dinner, they sat at opposite ends of the table, lost in private thought. The shock came when one of them glanced up, and their eyes caught—an...

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from August 1, 2017

    Benjamin follows up the Edna Ferber Prize-winning The Anatomy of Dreams with a BookExpo Buzz Book already bought by the Fox TV Group. It opens in 1969 New York with four children daringly visiting a fortune teller said to be able to predict the date of one's death. Elder siblings Daniel and Varya become an army doctor and a scientist, respectively, while younger, rebellious Klara works as a magician in Las Vegas, and the insouciant youngest, Simon, finds love and dance in San Francisco. Did the fortune teller's predictions determine their fates? With a national tour.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2017

    Benjamin follows up the Edna Ferber Prize-winning The Anatomy of Dreams with a BookExpo Buzz Book already bought by the Fox TV Group. It opens in 1969 New York with four children daringly visiting a fortune teller said to be able to predict the date of one's death. Elder siblings Daniel and Varya become an army doctor and a scientist, respectively, while younger, rebellious Klara works as a magician in Las Vegas, and the insouciant youngest, Simon, finds love and dance in San Francisco. Did the fortune teller's predictions determine their fates? With a national tour.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 23, 2017
    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. Agent: Margaret Riley King, WME Entertainment.

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