SIBLINGS SIREN SONG

Novelist Chloe Benjamin Celebrates Life Rooted in The Family

By Laura Anne Bird | Photographed by Kaia Calhoun

Novelist and Madison resident Chloe Benjamin is elated to ring in the new year. When January begins, her second book, “The Immortalists,” will be published.

Readers are in for a surprise with this lush, sprawling novel that opens in 1969 as four siblings visit a psychic. They each learn the day they will die—information that both motivates and constrains them in remarkable ways.

“I don’t do well with uncertainty. The book comes from that,” Benjamin says. “Knowing the day of your death can push you to live better, but it can also be paralyzing.”

At its heart, “The Immortalists” is about sisters and brothers. “I love thinking about how different people interpret the same event,” Benjamin says. “Siblings start out together, but they can end up so divergent.”

Three of Chloe Benjamin’s favorite novels, in fact, explore this idea of a familial siren song. “You grow up with siblings. It’s hard to pull away.”

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

These seven fantasy novels—featuring mythic beasts and the four Pevensie siblings—got into Benjamin’s bloodstream as a young reader. “I was surprised when a reviewer mentioned that “The Immortalists” reminded her of the series, but it makes perfect sense because they all have the same quintessential childhood magic.”

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Benjamin first read this book, which takes place in Michigan in the 1970s, as a teenager. “I was captivated by the Lisbon sisters, the doomed protagonists,” she says. “Although unsparing, the novel is an intoxicating meditation on the mysterious ecosystem of sibling relationships and the grief involved in growing up.”

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This book unravels the Cooke kids’ astonishing secret while asking: Is a sibling still a sibling if it isn’t human? Benjamin says, “The story is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking exploration of family, as well as the ways in which animals are like humans, and humans like animals.”

 

Must-see TV: “The Immortalists” is headed to the small screen! The Jackal Group has acquired the television rights to the book for development as a cable series.

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