Episode 51: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
How would you live if you knew when you would die? This is the question confronting the four Gold siblings: Varya, Daniel, Klara, and Simon. In 1969, when they are children, a fortune-teller predicts, for each of them, the date of their death. It’s superstition, silliness, they know this, but words have power. The prophecy follows them as they choose their paths into adulthood. Simon heads to San Francisco in search of an authentic self. Klara becomes a magician, an illusionist, a performer of death-defying feats. Daniel studies medicine but, as an Army doctor, instead of healing, he deems young men healthy enough to send to war. And Varya, the eldest, turns to science, the opposite of magic, but her field of study — how to extend the lives of primates — is perhaps her own version of a death-defying feat. As they live their lives — and face down their deaths — each must find the path to writing their own story in a world where uncertainty and loss are pervasive but love is enduring.
Host Cyd Oppenheimer talks with author Chloe Benjamin about unreliable narrators ("To me, every narrator is unreliable"), about allowing herself to write characters whose lived experience differs from her own ("research and empathy are the best way I've found to give myself that permission"), and choosing to end not with death but with healing.