In 1969, Varia leads her other three siblings to a fortune teller, a woman who tells each of the kids when they will die. It’s no secret that this book will be about death, but it’s surprisingly about living your life.
Simon: the youngest member of the Gold family, he leaves home with his sister Klara for the West Coast, becoming infatuated with San Francisco. As he discovers his sexuality, he keeps the fortune teller’s words in the back of his mind: that he will die young. Despite this harrowing prophecy, Simon starts dancing at a club, choosing to learn the art of ballet to become a better performer. Among the dancers is the gorgeous, alluring Richard, a man who soon becomes Simon’s lover.
Klara: longs to be a famous magician. She uses her talent to entrance as well as make people believe that magic is real. As she struggles to entertain crowds, she falls in love with Raj, a man who helps spark her imagination when it comes to creating a better act for herself. With Raj, she develops better acts, and takes her growing family on the road, heading for Las Vegas.
David: is an army doctor, living life post-9/11. While seeking security, he finds the information on the woman who read the fortunes of the Gold children all those years ago. Craving revenge, he makes plans to get answers from the woman who told him his future.
Varia: the oldest of the Gold children, she works as a researcher interested in longevity. As she continues her work with monkeys, Varia learns that her own mortality is at stake. Even though she’s a loner, Varia meets someone very important from her past, someone who changes her life.
The Immortalists is a fine book, one that asks, “What if you knew when you were going to die? What would change if you knew that information?”
While I’ve given away a few plot points, I’ve tried to leave most of the stories of the Gold children open-ended, so that people can read the novel and discover the worlds of these kids for themselves.
One thing I liked about The Immortalists was the power of the present. Despite each of the Gold kids knowing when they would die, they chose to live their lives how they saw fit: Simon went to San Francisco, came out as gay, and found dancing as an outlet not just for his job, but for his personal life as well, a place where he could find someone to love him. Klara took her magic to the big stages of Las Vegas, created a family, and left behind a legacy for her daughter. David, though his story was a bit grim, found the woman who had told the Gold’s fortunes all those years ago. Lastly, Varia’s daily life as a researcher was interrupted by the appearance of someone she’d written off years ago.
Each of these stories was compelling, because it showed resilience in the face of death, adventure and love despite what was once unknown.
If you like historical fiction, The Immortalists is a book you should pick up.
Here’s an article on Sandra Chiu on her design for the book.