‘The Immortalists’ book review: Chloe Benjamin’s emotional tale of life and death

By junior reporter Selva Sathish Achudha Bala
  • What would you do if you knew the date of your own death?
  • This young adult novel explores the lives of four siblings who visit a mysterious fortune-teller and find out when they will die
By junior reporter Selva Sathish Achudha Bala |

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'The Immortalists' explores the concept of life and death.

What would you do if you knew the date of your own death?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is an emotional tale of life and death that avoids clichéd stereotypes. The thoughtful writing shows off the author’s vivid imagination and eye for detail.

The story, set in 1980s San Francisco, starts with four young siblings visiting a fortune-teller, who predicts when each of them will die. Through shifting perspectives, we see how each sibling deals with the prophecy and how their lives are altered by it. The characters are beautifully rendered, and their development arcs are logical yet unique.

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Fans of fantasy will especially enjoy Klara’s journey exploring magic. Her growth from innocence to having the passion and determination to see her dreams through will resonate with many students preparing to take on the “real world”.

Alongside the compelling storyline is a well-researched setting which adds to the overall mood. Trends and slang of the era are used to good effect, immersing the reader in the scene. The author’s fluent, descriptive writing style also helps bring the story to life. Some parts feel unnecessarily verbose, though: while the prose mostly heightens the emotion of scenes, it occasionally seems out of place or exaggerated.

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While the ending is somewhat inevitable, what hits home is the way all four siblings seize their lives and make them uniquely their own: even the shadow cast by the prophecy cannot dim their brilliance. Is knowing the date of your death a blessing or a curse? This book holds some answers to that question and, having explored the psyche of each sibling, reveals the varying aspects of human nature behind their decisions.

All in all, the interwoven narratives will remind readers of the preciousness of humanity, and of the real effect of decisions on our fleeting existence. The Immortalists is a work of art, where emotion is paint on the canvas of life.