Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319
The Immortalists mostly deals with issues of mortality and fate vs. free will. The four Gold siblings have the option early in their lives to learn the dates of their deaths from a psychic. The novel then raises the question of how a person's life trajectory is determined with foreknowledge of its endpoint.
Each sibling approaches this metaphysical question in a different way. For example, anticipating an early death, Simon throws himself into a self-destructive lifestyle after he comes out and moves to San Francisco. One could argue that he succumbs early to AIDS because he lived carelessly, knowing he would die young. Another way to look at this would be to say he was fated or predestined to die at that age regardless of what actions he took to get there. Daniel similarly makes self-destructive choices as his life barrels out of control toward his death.
The novel also deals with the ways humans struggle to find meaning and extend their lives, regardless of whether they believe in a fated end point. Varya, for example, is the sibling who is supposed to live the longest, but she is also a scientist who studies methods and practices that best extend lifespans. Even with the most time allotted her, Varya lives a sparse, disciplined life that she believes will yield her the longest life.
The novel is a poignant meditation on how people do or do not take their lives into their own hands. If a person believes he or she is fated to die at a certain time or in a certain way, he or she may channel energy toward that "fate," but at that point, is the person choosing the fate through their own free will? It's a complicated problem that has no one answer or solution, but The Immortalists provides a thought-provoking and touching hypothesis (or set of hypotheses) about how humans realistically wrestle with existential questions.
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