Rated Reads

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

Rated: DIRT

The four young Gold siblings live in the Lower East Side of New York in the summer of 1969, and they hear of a woman who is telling people what date they will die. They figure it should be interesting to find out their own death dates, so they pool their savings and meet with the woman, one by one. What they are told rattles each of them, and while they either pretend they don’t believe or what they heard doesn’t bother them, what they hear informs the rest of their lives.

Simon, who realizes he’s gay as a teen, takes off to San Francisco with his little sister, Klara. He is intent on living the life he’s heard about in this homosexual mecca. Klara herself decides to pursue her dreams of being a magician. Their older siblings, Varya and Daniel, go to college and into more scientific careers.

I couldn’t read past a quarter into this book. The stories of the four siblings come one after the other, beginning with Simon’s tale, and it is all about the hedonistic gay lifestyle in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s of San Francisco. I couldn’t read anymore after two explicit gay sex scenes, one that was an encounter between Simon and a total stranger. It may be that the rest of the book isn’t as rough, but I just couldn’t proceed after that.

Rated: DIRT. I really rarely have to give this rating to books I read, but this book, 25 percent of the way in, had probably 10 uses of strong language and then two very, very detailed and lurid sex scenes between two males, and I wished I could have been warned ahead of time myself.

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Immortalists
  • by Chloe Benjamin
  • Rated: DIRT
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: