The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

“Thoughts have wings.”  – The Immortalists

In recent months, I’ve been thinking about the power of thoughts. My boyfriend says I tend to focus on the negative, that I latch on to a negative train of thought and run with it, letting it impact my day, my week, my month. To a certain extent, I’d say he’s right, and I’m working on it. However, it can be so. damn. hard.

Have you ever had a nagging thought, big or small, that just eats away at you? It consumes every inch of you, gnawing at your brain matter, distorting your reality and steadily pushing you to either a breakdown or an epiphany?

The Gold siblings know what I’m talking about. When they’re kids, the four of them – Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon – visit a psychic together, and she tells each of them the exact day they’re going to die. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin then tracks the siblings, showing the impact this knowledge has on their choices and their lives.

“Sitting in the rishika’s apartment, Varya was sure she was a fraud, but when she went home the prophecy worked inside her like a virus. She saw it do the same thing to her siblings…”  – pg. 292

I was excited and impatient to read The Immortalists due to the persistent buzz about it on Bookstagram and in the mainstream media. The story hooked me right from the beginning, but I grew unsure of the book the farther I got into it. It was probably naive of me, but I wasn’t expecting to story to be quite so tragic and sad. However, that’s more my fault than anything else.

The writing is beautiful throughout, and Benjamin does a good job of subtly making her point without beating the reader over the head. People will have their own opinions on the siblings, the idea of knowing your death date and how the prophecy works inside each character. Benjamin gives readers a lot of fodder for continued thought, which I can personally vouch for as the book has stuck with me days after reading the final page.

For me, the thing that impressed me the most about the book is that did something that rarely happens: It changed my mind about something. I have always been of the mind that more knowledge is always better, and if you asked me before reading The Immortalists if I would like to know what day I’m going to die, I would have said yes without hesitation.

However, I now find myself feeling quite the opposite. The Gold siblings show so vividly how a thought can eat away at you, how it can invade your entire life. I know that I personally would not do well with that, and I would find myself consumed by the knowledge.

Possibly more important than the debate of “Would I or would I not want to know?” is the commentary on the very nature of how we live our lives. Do we play it safe in the pursuit of a long life, or do we throw caution to the wind, living life wholly and fiercely knowing that we could meet an abrupt end? Those two options aren’t mutually exclusive, and I believe that a healthy balance between both can lead to a full and happy life.

I have found myself, though, living very safely in the former lately. That could be due to a multitude of reasons, not the least of which would be the untimely passing of my dad in 2015. Benjamin’s novel helped me face some of my unresolved feelings on his passing, as well as death in general. The book gave me a new perspective, a new lens from which to view my own life. And I find that only the best books can do that.

Have you read The Immortlists yet? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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