Are you hosting the next book club discussion of The Immortalists? Never fear, for we've got a great overview of The Immortalists characters and story, a list of themes, The Immortalists book club questions, and some ideas for food and drink!
About the Book
The Immortalists is the New York Times bestselling novel by Chloe Benjamin about four siblings living in 1969 New York City, who one day sneak off and see a psychic. This psychic is rumored to be able to tell anyone the day they'll die, and the children ask her to reveal their own death dates. The psychic agrees to meet with each of them individually, and what she tells them rattles each sibling--and goes on to have a profound effect on their lives. As they grow older, Simon escapes to San Francisco, Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, Daniel becomes a doctor post 9/11, and Varya becomes a scientist obsessed with the concept of longevity and eternal life. The book is told in four parts the spans the lifetime of each sibling, slowly revealing what precisely the psychic told them, and asking big questions about life and fate.
This novel contains such themes as life, predestination, family, legacies, regret, the desire to know the unknowable, faith, and belief.
The Immortalists Book Club Questions
Why do you think people (especially young people) are so drawn to the possibility of knowing when they might die?
As you read, did you believe that the psychic was really able to predict the kids' death dates?
Why do you think that the psychic's predictions had such a lasting affect on the siblings? Do you believe that the power of suggestion was what really influenced their lives and decisions?
Discuss the siblings' Jewish upbringing and how they reconcile their faith with what they believe about what the psychic told them.
The book is divided into various sections that follow the lives of each sibling--did you enjoy this structure? Why or why not?
Which sibling did you identify with the most?
What did you think of the settings in this book? Did you enjoy the New York City setting? Which one did you like the most?
One of the major themes of this book was the idea of predestination. Do you believe that our destinies are predetermined, or that we create our own fates?
To what extent do you believe we are shaped by our family histories? How does the psychic's predictions shape the siblings' stories, and by extension, their family's history? Their partner's lives?
What did you think about the speculative nature of this book? Was it magic, or do you think it was magical thinking with a logical explanation? Do you like it when books blend reality and magic?
Were you satisfied with the endings of the various siblings' stories? Why or why not?
Do you believe that each sibling really lived their lives to the fullest, knowing (or believing they know) when they would die?
Do you think the siblings' lives would have been different if they hadn't learned their death date, or if they hadn't believed the psychic?
What do think might have happened to Varya?
If you could learn the day of your death, would you choose to know? Why or why not?
Have you ever visited a psychic? How did your experience differ from that of the siblings'?
Do you believe there is beauty in uncertainty, as Gertie asserts?
Have you read anything else that Chloe Benjamin has written? Would you read any other books by her?
What else would you recommend to book club members who enjoyed The Immortalists?
What to Eat and Drink
If you want to make some themes food and drink, consider offering up a selection of tea, as tea is a symbol of trust when the siblings initially visit the psychic. One fun thing might be to invite everyone to bring samples of their favorite teas, and have a tasting or let members try new teas as you all discuss! (Iced tea totally counts!) If you're not big tea drinkers, then consider offering a traditional Jewish dessert, as a nod to the characters' jewish heritage. Rugelach is great, but you can also throw in some macaroons or chocolate babka!
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