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The Immortalists

The Immortalists - Chloe  Benjamin I did enjoy this book. I found the stories of Simon and Klara heartbreaking and very real. I recall that time when AIDS first revealed itself. Simon's story is an interesting study on that time and the many factors involved in its emergence. However we never loose sight of the personal in this story, that it is Simon's story.

You don't really get much of an idea about the interconnectedness of the siblings in the beginning, but it does emerge as the story connects. With Klara's story you get a much richer understanding of the nature of the relationship between Klara, Simon and their father Saul. When Daniel and Varya's stories are broached you get a much better idea of the trajectory of the family's relationships.

Each of the siblings has their own issues with connection; Simon's with feeling safe enough in his difference to express affection; Klara's with believing in the magic of everyday life which holds those we love and have loved close to us; Daniel's with relinquishing control and allowing life to evolve as he would choose it to and Varya's is embracing the meatiness and corporeal nature of our bonds with our nearest and dearest, not trying to rationalise and think them through.

The book very cleverly asks some questions about agency, choice and fate. The fortune teller is the vehicle for this questioning. She is quite a contradictory figure. Is she responsible for their fates? Is she bad? Is she a victim herself? Is she simply at the whim of her 'gift'? These are interesting questions when considered in line with other questions I asked myself while reading this book. Should we live everyday as if it's our last, knowing that our death may be just around the corner? Or should we live disregarding death, embracing only life, putting death to the side, assuming it to be way down the road? Even though the Gold children were probably too young to hear the news the fortune teller told them, they didn't stay children. So where was their adult agency, sense of reason and emotional nous in their later years? Or is their reaction to this sort of news completely normal and understandable, even if you don't believe in fortune tellers?

I think the weakest part of the story was the FBI character. Klara was enchanting enough without him. I would like to see less of him and more of Klara's magic. I still think that having the fortune teller investigated for fraud was clever, and there is a way to have Daniel's story evolve as it did, without the investigator's obsession with Klara. This thread through the story seemed implausible and unnecessary; without it, I would have given the book five stars.

But that aside it is still a great book which will get you thinking and asking the big questions.