The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Goodreads Summary– If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.
Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
Chloe Benjamin writes beautiful prose. What I appreciated most about her writing was that each of her characters had their own voice. The story centers on the lives of four siblings, and the author managed to make each of them unique. You could show me a snippet of each of the character’s inner dialogue and I would have been able to guess who it was.
The Family Dynamics
The Immortalists is one the best books about siblings that I have ever read. Sibling relationships can be very complicated and that is very evident in this book. Each of them have an extremely different connection and it was fascinating to see how that played out.
The Immortalists is set in both New York City as well as San Francisco and it takes place over multiple decades. What I appreciated the most was that these cities were not romanticized. San Francisco was a scary place during the 80’s especially for the gay community, and the author does not gloss over this.
This is a book that makes you think! There are a lot of philosophical questions that are posed, and I am still not sure what I would do if I was faced with the same situation as these characters. Would you want to know the day that you will die, and what would you do with that knowledge? Would you throw caution to the wind and live life to the fullest, or would you become more reserved and fearful? Do you believe in fate or can you change your destiny? It also discusses the issue of immortality. Would you want to be immortal and at what cost? I have been contemplating these questions ever since I finished this book!
I had a few problems with the section of the book that followed Daniel’s story. I do not want to give any spoilers so I will just say that the decision that he makes at the end was so out of character and just left me scratching my head. I can understand that the author wanted to add some action and drama but it just did not make any sense to me!
“Magic is only one tool among many for keeping one another alive.”
“The power of words. They weaseled under door crevices and through keyholes. They hooked into individuals and wormed through generations.”
“The cost of loneliness is high, she knows, but the cost of loss is higher.”
Penguin Random House Canada sent me a copy of The Immortalists in exchange for an honest review.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Goodreads Summary– Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Honestly, this review could just be one giant love letter to Eleanor! I adore her! This book is all about her life and her growth, and it was a complete joy to read. I do not know that I have ever felt so invested in a character before. I cried for her, I giggled at her quirkiness, and I cheered her on.
I was not anticipating this book to have such a profound affect on me. I can relate to Eleanor in some ways and I know what it is like to go through something traumatic and isolate yourself as a result. This is something I have been working on (and one of the reason I started blogging) and this book was surprisingly hopeful. Seeing Eleanor move forward gives me strength. I think a lot of others will be able to recognize a part of themselves in the story.
I was not expecting this book to be so funny! There were some moments where Eleanor’s sense of humour caught me completely off guard. Her inner dialogue often brought a smile to my face and made me laugh out loud. Here is just one example:
“I pondered what else I should take for him. Flowers seemed wrong; they’re a love token, after all. I looked in the fridge, and popped a packet of cheese slices into the bag. All men like cheese.”
“Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.”
“I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”
“When you’re struggling hard to manage your own emotions, it becomes unbearable to have to witness other people’s, to have to try and manage theirs too.”
Evidently, I loved both of these books! They truly are some of the best books that literary fiction has to offer. I can not believe that both of these are debut novels! I am anxiously waiting to see what they publish next!
Have you read either of these books? Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts and opinions?