If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? This is the question that Chloe Benjamin’s 2018 novel, The Immortalists, grapples with. Beginning in late 1960s New York City, the story follows the lives of four siblings—Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon—who, during a visit to a psychic, learn which days each of them will die. With this knowledge weighing heavily on their minds, the siblings must navigate life while desperately trying to figure out whether their destinies are truly unchangeable.

Benjamin divides the novel into four parts, each following a different sibling’s life and recounting their experiences up until the very end. Benjamin creates complex characters who differ in lifestyle and personality to express the variety of ways that people cope with the unknown. Varya, the eldest sibling, immerses herself in the world of science as a way of grappling with her impending fate. Daniel finds solace in his work as an army doctor but struggles continuously with his demons, both real and imaginary. Klara, the magician, travels to Las Vegas, chasing fame and a deeper connection to the magical forces she believes in. Finally, Simon, the youngest, lives his out life in San Francisco, searching for love and acceptance amidst the AIDs epidemic. However, their shared uncertainty of what lies ahead intertwines their stories.

Along with her thoroughly crafted characters, Benjamin’s alluring descriptions capture each person’s emotional struggle. From her illustration of the bustling streets of New York to the landscapes of San Francisco, her settings serve as a backdrop for the characters’ conflicts with morality and destiny. Through her attention to detail, Benjamin transports her readers to each location, allowing them to experience the sights and sounds alongside her characters. The settings are truly immersive and enhance the themes she explores throughout the story.

The characters’ struggles raise thought-provoking questions about the nature of fate and free will. Through the experiences of the Gold siblings, Benjamin challenges readers to contemplate whether knowledge of the future empowers or enslaves and whether it is possible to change one's destiny. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that the siblings must accept the inevitability of death in order to live out their most authentic lives. Ultimately, their journey leads them to understand the cost of valuable information and wonder what could have been.

Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists is a beautifully crafted novel that captivates readers from beginning to end. With its compelling characters, powerful plot, and thematic depth, the novel provides a thoughtful reflection on the fragility of life and the strength of human resilience. The story invites readers to ponder the complexities of fate, free will, and the consequences of knowing one's destiny. Benjamin's masterful storytelling makes this novel a truly unforgettable reading experience that lingers long after the final page.