In the High Peaks

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Immortalists

Tremendous buzz about Chloe Benjamin's second novel The Immortalists, which, as of today, has just been entered as #7 on the NYT Bestseller List. It is also one of Amazon's Picks for January. The premise is intriguing--four siblings venture to the home of a woman, known via the neighborhood grapevine, as one who can predict a customer's date of death. The children range in age from fourteen to seven years.

Before I divulge my personal reactions, I can affirm that the novel is a compelling read, which gropes with a multitude of facets concerning life and death, and also probes the interconnections among family members over the course of decades.

The Immortalists is a rich, multi-layered novel that I believe is absolutely ideal for book discussion  groups--I am convinced that each reader in a group will have their own unique ideas, opinions, and questions about the novel that they will be eager to discuss with others. How I wish that right now I had a book group meeting coming up where we would soon talk about it, because I'm so longing for other people's points of view.

The next paragraph may be a Spoiler for some people, so here's my Spoiler Alert!

For personal reasons, I can say that not only did I not enjoy or appreciate this book, I disliked it and I disparage it. I also came away with the awful sense that reading it gave me nothing, nothing at all worthwhile to take away. It provoked me. It made me angry.

If a fortune teller had given me an early doom date, I would have eventually, after agonizing over it,  confided in my mother, even if I had done something that she would have disapproved of and would have punished me for (like going to a stranger's house without telling an adult).
The most surprising thing to me is that the siblings do not share their death dates at the time, nor while they were older children, when they were most vulnerable. They each kept their death dates totally secret during childhood. I can't imagine that the 7-year-old would not turn to his older siblings for comfort. I just can't imagine it. They ventured there as a team. Why wouldn't they share info afterwards? When don't siblings turn to each other? They went there, in fear, together. I just don't get it. They played together, did things together all summer. But this, this they kept secret? Just Not believable. Not to me. I found each death to be a savage, stupid, unnecessary death.


  1. Interesting perspective, Judith. I have not read the book (though I'd like to) but also find it completely unbelievable that siblings would not share their death dates. That just doesn't make sense, especially given their ages...

    1. JoAnn,
      I guess that was my take, given the group of siblings as portrayed. I'll be very interested to learn your thoughts. I suspect they will not be as negative as my reactions! It will be refreshing to hear what others think. Thanks for commenting.