I am finally finished reading the final section of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Since that fateful day on Hester St. in 1969; we’ve watched the Gold children evolve from children, who’s curiosity once guided them to a Romani gypsy for answers, to adults plagued by the knowledge they’d received.
The youngest Gold; Simon, urged by elder sister Klara and fueled by his death date, ran from his home of NYC to make a name for himself in San Francisco. Embracing his sexuality, he finds love and a hidden talent. He insists on making the most of his life, fated to die young. His curtain closes in the 80s, and he is lost to the AIDS virus.
Obsessed with the other-wold and guilt-ridden over the loss of Simon Klara begins a downward spiral full of drinking and hallucination. Though she manages to marry and have a child. She too cannot escape the damning reminder of her date and actually claims her own life to make it come true.
Eldest son, Daniel, military doctor and beloved son of the Gold family seemed determined to live past his date. Though as his time loomed closer, the knowledge that he was “meant” to die drives him mad. Agitated by what he knows and determined to bring the woman of Hester St. to justice for perceived crimes against his family, he is gunned down after assaulting the woman.
And then there was one…
Varya Gold was the only one left. She’d been born first, was fated to live the longest yet, we never really meet Varya until her own section. I’m starting to realize that this story may have always been about Varya. Starting with the prologue told from her point of view. We meet the woman on Hester St. through Varya’s eyes. She is the only onw who’s conversation is shared with the reader and she is also the only one who’s full date is revealed in the beginning.
I’ll touch more on how the book plays out if this was always about Varya more in the actual review but for now I just wanted to mention the one thing that may have kept Varya alive longer than her siblings.
Varya had a sickness, a fear of dirt and germs. A compulsion to wash herself and to minimize physical contact with others. She enjoyed books, a means of coping with the isolation, however, even before Hester St. she’d begun to distance herself from her family afraid that death was always lurking behind the corner.
Yet of all the Gold children she, the eldest, would have the longest life. We rejoin Varya sometime after Daniel’s meltdown and death only to discover that she is lead researcher at the Drake Institute for Research on Aging.
Her siblings seemed obsessed with ensuring they lived their lives to the fullest. Varya seems determined to live.
Using Rhesus monkeys as test subjects, in a caloric restriction experiment, she is trying to prove that eating less will improve longevity.
A quandary that sparks a philosophical debate in her section.
Is it better to live a lesser life in order to live a longer one?
Up to this point the going concept has been that ‘Thoughts Have Wings’ hinting to the idea that the thought that they’d die on a certain date drove each Gold to their deaths. Varya, suffering from OCD had a preoccupation with death long before the fortune teller and her cautious life seemed to keep her alive. Yet she’d sacrificed so much for those extra years.
Varya is also taking part in the restrictive experiment, her OCD has caused her to live alone, and she is unmarried. We discover she had a son, and placed him up for adoption as a baby. Something that comes back up in her later years.
Varya’s section is much less about her preoccupation with the woman’s prophecy and more about how far she was willing to go to save herself. Varya’s own illness is far more foreboding than the woman’s fortune especially since it said Varya dies at the age of eighty-eight.
Varya is the only Gold to survive the story, she visits with their mother and watches as Ruby, Klara’s daughter grows into a woman. She visits Robert, Simon’s love who has moved on and found happiness surviving with the virus that claimed her brother’s life and she’s able to attend the wedding of Daniel’s ex-wife who was finally able to find peace and a new family to call her own.
Varya’s chapter ends looking towards the future as she chooses to live for the first time in her life.
What Do You Think Of Varya’s Section?
Let Me Know In The Comments Below!