Pinterest Hidden Image

Learn what happens in the book. This The Immortalists summary and character guide details Chloe Benjamin’s instant New York Times bestselling family saga / LGBTQ novels. You’ll get all your questions answered here, so let’s get literary!

the immortalists by chloe benjamin in front of trees
  • Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Entertainment WeeklyReal SimpleMarie Claire, New York Public Library, LibraryReads, The Skimm, Lit Hub, Lit Reactor
  • A finalist for The Tonight Show’s Summer Reads

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.

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

Below is a free book summary of The Immortalists WITH 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Immortalists about?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin follows the lives of the four Gold siblings after a psychic predicts the date of each of their deaths in 1969 in New York City. This prophecy deeply influences their life choices and paths: Simon explores his identity in San Francisco’s gay scene; Klara pursues a career as a magician blurring reality and illusion; Daniel grapples with his role as a military doctor; and Varya dedicates herself to longevity research. The novel explores the question of fate versus choice, and it explores how one’s belief in their destiny can shape his or her journey through life.

Who are the main characters in The Immortalists?

In The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, the main characters are the four Gold siblings, whose lives are influenced by a psychic’s prediction of the date of each of their deaths: Simon, who explores his identity in San Francisco’s gay scene; Klara, who pursues a career as a magician blurring reality and illusion; Daniel, who grapples with his role as a military doctor; and Varya, who dedicates herself to longevity research.

What happened to Simon in The Immortalists?

In The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, the youngest Gold sibling, Simon, dies of AIDS at age 20 on his predicated date of death.

What happened to Klara in The Immortalists?

In The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, Klara commits suicide on the date of her predicted death. So, her death is at least partially by choice.

What happened to Daniel in The Immortalists?

In The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, Daniel violently attempts to force the fortune teller to admit she caused Simon’s and Klara’s deaths. Then, the recurring character Eddie O’Donoghue shoots and kills Daniel when he refuses to drop his weapon.

What happened to Varya in The Immortalists?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 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.

Is The Immortalists sad?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is a book in which death is a major theme, so it does have sad moments. Overall, however, it’s more philosophical in exploring fate versus choice in life and death than it is sad.

What is the theme of The Immortalists?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin explores the question of fate versus choice, and it explores how one’s belief in their destiny can shape his or her journey through life. It also offers themes of reality versus illusion and whether the length of one’s life makes it better or worse.

Conclusion

The Immortalists is a poignant exploration of fate and choice that has stayed with me for many years now. This summary and character guide aimed to help you meditate further on mortality, family bonds, and the age-old question: if you knew the date of your death, how would you choose to live?

Share your thoughts on this thought-provoking novel or any remaining questions you may have in the comments below.

Buy The Immortalists:

Save This Post Form

Save This Post for Later!

Get this post instantly sent straight to your email inbox so you have it for later. Plus, you’ll get The Literary Lifestyle's newsletter.

Leave a Comment or Question

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *