Would you like to know when you are going to die? Think about that for a moment, it’s a question that’s a lot harder to answer than you may realize. Chloe Benjamin understands the complexity of the question and builds a story of remarkable ambition and depth around it in her new novel, The Immortalists. It’s1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality. Norman B’s engaging interview with Chloe explores the smart crafting of The Immortalists, the line between destiny and choice, and her observations on relationships.
When Eli first meets Sam Westergard, he is dazzled by his new friend’s charisma, energy, and determined passion. Both graduate students in New York City, the two young men bond over their idealism, their love of poetry, and their commitment to socialism, both in theory and in practice—this last taking the form of an organized protest against Soline, a giant energy company that has speculated away the jobs and savings of thousands. As an Occupy-like group begins to coalesce around him, Eli realizes that some of his fellow intellectuals are more deeply—and dangerously—devoted to the cause than others. This is the backdrop for The Radicals, the new novel by Ryan McIlvain. Ostensibly, this is an alert, timely thriller, but McIlvain explores relationships and emotions with a deft use of dialogue and beautifully arranged prose. Norman B’s thoughtful interview with Ryan ventures in many directions but always returning to the powerful core of his book, relationships.
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