If you love thought-provoking, captivating family sagas and LGBTQ novels, read on for all the details you need to know about author Chloe Benjamin's instant New York Times bestselling book The Immortalists: book club questions, character, a summary / review (all WITH spoilers), and books like The Immortalists.
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- The Immortalists characters;
- a summary / review of the novel;
- The Immortalists book club questions; and
- books like The Immortalists for further similar reading.
NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
The Immortalists Characters
The Immortalists is a literary family saga fiction book about the four Gold siblings. Below are the main characters to help you keep track of them:
- Gertie Gold: the family matriarch;
- Saul Gold: the family patriarch;
- Varya Gold: the oldest Gold sibling, mother of Luke Van Galder, and an anxious microbiologist specializing in increasing life longevity;
- Daniel Gold: the second oldest Gold sibling, a military doctor married to a professor named Mira;
- Klara Gold: the second youngest Gold sibling, a magician married to Raj Chamar and the mother of Ruby;
- Simon Gold: the youngest Gold sibling, a dancer and boyfriend to Robert; and
- Bruna Costello: the fortune teller the Gold children visit in the Summer of 1969 as kids aged 7-13, in order to learn the predicted dates of their deaths.
The Immortalists Summary / Review
The Immortalists is a very good book. It's exquisitely written and explores thoughtful themes of life and death through memorable characters -- a family of four siblings obsessed with a childhood prediction of their dates of death.
The Immortalists explores several themes: choice versus fate, reality versus illusion, and whether the length of one's life makes it better or worse.
The Immortalists is literary fiction, and its sub-genre is family drama.
The Immortalists has 368 pages.
The Immortalists primarily takes place in the Lower East Side of New York City. Other cities, like San Francisco and Las Vegas, also play prominent roles.
The youngest Gold sibling, Simon, dies at age 20 on his predicated date of death.
The youngest Gold sibling, Simon, dies of AIDS at age 20 on his predicated date of death.
Yes. Klara commits suicide in The Immortalists on the date of her predicted death. Thus, her death is at least partially by choice.
After Daniel violently attempts to force the fortune teller to admit she caused Simon's and Klara's deaths, recurring character Eddie O'Donoghue shoots and kills Daniel when he refuses to drop his weapon.
The Immortalists ends before Varya's predicted date of death, and she is still alive, having just left her as a biologist studying how to increase the longevity of human life in order to live more fully and connect better with others.
No. The Immortalists is a standalone book.
At the end of The Immortalists, Varya leaves her job decades before her predicted death with a new lease on life, and she watches Klara's daughter Ruby put on a memorable magic show with her mother.
Note: The below summary of The Immortalists contains spoilers!
The Immortalists begins in the Lower East Side of New York City in the Summer of 1969, as the four Jewish Gold siblings, ages 7 to 13 (Varya, the oldest; Daniel, the second oldest; Klara; the second youngest; and Simon, the youngest), visit a fortune-teller who predicts the date of each of their deaths.
The siblings are haunted by their predicted dates of death for decades to come, in four parts, each devoted to one of their perspectives.
In the part dedicated to Simon, he is 16 when his father Saul dies of a heart attack. Although he is supposed to take over the family's tailoring business, Simon is not interested in doing so, particularly in light of the fact he was predicted to die at age 20.
Since Simon is also gay and wants to live more openly, he runs away to San Francisco with his sister, Klara. There, he works at a club as a dancer and attends ballet classes. For a time, he is promiscuous, but then he enters into a relationship with another ballet dancer and rises in the ranks at the ballet company.
But, when the AIDS virus grows throughout the city, he refuses to quarantine, believing he is destined to die soon anyway. Sure enough, he contracts AIDS and dies at age 20 on the date of his predicted death.
In the part dedicated to Klara, she mourns Simon's death with her family, then returns to San Francisco. She works as a magician performing sleight of hand tricks and even hanging from a rope by her teeth. She reconnects with a man named Raj, whom she had met when she first moved to San Francisco, and they become business partners (and later lovers).
As Klara's show expands, she struggles personally by frequently drinking heavily and blacking out. She also believes Simon's spirit is communicating with her the message “MEET ME.”
Klara and Raj marry in 1998 and have a daughter named Ruby. Raj convinces her to go to Las Vegas for more steady, high-paying work. They book a show at the Mirage Hotel, as Raj becomes frustrated with Klara's growing belief that her work truly is magic (not just sleight of hand).
Klara continues to drink and communicate with Simon, more nervously as her predicted date of death draws near, on the exact date on which the opening night of her Las Vegas show is scheduled to occur.
As the date approaches more imminently, she realizes that magic will be a reality if she does die on the date of her predicted death, and that she will still be able to communicate with the living from the other side. Comforted by these thoughts, she makes the decision to commit suicide and hangs herself on opening night.
In the part dedicated to Daniel, the family mourns Klara together. At her services, Daniel meets Eddie O’Donoghue, who had seen Klara perform many times and was infatuated with her. He also happens to be the person who discovered Klara dead. When he tells Daniel he is investigating the case, Daniel tells him about the fortune teller's predictions.
Fourteen years later, just prior to Thanksgiving 2006, Daniel is suspended from his job as a military doctor because he is turning too many people away from serving in the war. Unlike his deceased siblings, Daniel believes fully in free will, and so he wanted to make his own decisions at work.
He invites Raj and Ruby to Thanksgiving. Ruby has successfully begun to learn Klara’s act, and Daniel enjoys his time with her since he and his wife Mira are childless.
Then, Daniel receives a call from Eddie, who informs him that the fortune teller has been connected to five suicides. However, on the day after Thanksgiving, when Daniel is predicted to die, Eddie tells him that the FBI has cleared the fortune teller of any wrongdoing.
Furious, he takes a gun and hunts down the fortune teller, violently coercing her to confess to causing the deaths of his siblings. Instead, she responds that she thought that she was empowering people to live their lives intentionally. Unappeased, Daniel threatens to kill her when Eddie, who has arrived on the scene, shoots and kills him.
In the part dedicated to Varya, she is a 53-year-old biologist working on a study that may eventually increase human lifespan through a restricted diet. An anxious woman haunted by the fortune-teller in her own right, she has lived a life of very limited experiences and isolation from human relationships.
She explains the project to a young journalist named Luke, and they watch a monkey being studied begin to self-harm. Later, Luke reveals he was the son that Varya had given up for adoption after she had an affair with a visiting professor in graduate school and was too fearful to care for him.
Luke then tries to explain one of the main themes of The Immortalists to Varya: that a longer life isn’t necessarily a better one.
Upset, Varya tries to help the monkey, but she ends up leaving her job as a result of interfering with the study. With a new lease on life, she begins to eat better, start a new career, and work on her relationship with Luke.
A few weeks later, Varya and Ruby visit the Gold family matriarch. Varya is impressed by Ruby's magic, even though Ruby wants to become a doctor, and she is comforted in understanding that the two careers are merely different means of keeping humans alive.
The Immortalists is a deeply moving testament to themes of life and death, fate versus choice, faith, belief, and certainty. It's a book I think about each Fall, given its thematic cover and content. It's best for fans of really thoughtful literary fiction and family dramas. And the final chapter is one of my favorites of all-time, beautifully making the reader think about the value of life -- and living.
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30+ The Immortalists Book Club Questions
If The Immortalists is your book club pick, use the following discussion questions to guide your conversations:
Discuss each of the four Gold sibling's beliefs about death.
Discuss the power of words in The Immortalists.
Did you like or dislike learning the story of the Gold family through each of the four siblings?
Compare and contrast the power of the words of the mystical woman who told fortunes versus religious words.
This sweeping story is told over decades. Did time affect the outcome for each sibling?
Do you believe more in fate or choice?
Discuss the role of religion in The Immortalists.
Discuss the effects the Gold siblings had on each other, for better or worse.
Do you believe any of the characters suffer from survivor's guilt?
How do each of the characters cope with grief?
How did the siblings' partners and children affect their lives?
What emotions does the concept of death make each of the characters feel?
Which characters do you think prefer living in the unknown and visa versa?
Are thoughts similar or different to spoken words to the Gold children?
What is the difference between reality and illusion in The Immortalists?
Why do you believe the characters chose each of their respective professions?
Discuss the role of the setting in each of the characters' lives.
Do you believe in fortune-telling?
Share any experiences you have had with fortune-telling.
Do you believe a fortune could have had so much power over a family in real life?
What may have been different in the Gold siblings' lives if they hadn't visited the fortune teller?
Discuss the role of Eddie O’Donoghue in each of the siblings' lives. What was his purpose?
Do you think knowing the predicted date of your death would change your life? How?
If you had the choice, would you like to know the date of your death beforehand?
Why did Daniel confront the psychic?
Did any of the siblings' fates surprise you?
Did you feel more connected to any one of the four Gold children?
How did the lifespan of each of the Gold siblings affect the quality of their respective lives?
Why are the Gold siblings "The Immortalists"?
What do you think happened to Varya after the final page?
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Books Similar to The Immortalists
After you read The Immortalists, you may be interested in reading more books dealing with family drama, sibling relations, life and death questions and issues, family tragedies, and grief. Below are 7 books like The Immortalists that I have personally read and think you will enjoy:
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