Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Immortal.
Set in the great city of Florence, this unusual and superbly told story of the life of Luca Bastardo spans two centuries of the Italian Renaissance. In his long life, he endures the basest of abuse to the highest of joys as he grapples with questions regarding the God who watches over both good and evil.
The Cathars are a race of people descended from Seth, the son of Adam and Eve. They have unusual longevity, immunity against illness, and accelerated healing properties. Luca is part of this race, but he is separated from his parents while still a toddler and ends up on the street stealing to stay alive before his best friend sells him into a brothel specializing in children.
Many years of terror and humiliation follow, but his friendship with artist Giotto do Bondone gives him a reason to live until a chance encounter with a Jew changes the course of his life. Since he has aged but little, Luca knows he is different, and the brothel owners son is determined to see him burn at the stake. A sadist himself, Nicolo hides behind the Confraternity of the Red Feather and their involvement with the Inquisition to justify his hunt for Luca.
When the Black Death comes to Florence to take the lives of half the city, Luca becomes a becchini, one who collects the dead and buries the bodies. Those he meets discuss and debate who and what God is in attempts to put the horror of their present reality in some sort of perspective. When Luca sees a vision that asks him to decide whether he wants a shorter life with a great love or a long life without it, his starving heart needs no time to decide. It would always be love.
His journeys are fascinating, and along the way he befriends people like Cosimo and Lorenzo de’ Medici, Sandro Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci. Some become fast friends while others betray him, but the rich tapestry they weave in Luca’s life over the decades gives it an unquenchable beauty. As he wrestles with who and what God is, Luca contemplates mysteries that go deep down to the heart of the human spirit. How a good God can allow unspeakable suffering and remain good is a question revisited and pondered over many times through Slatton’s characters. Answers ranging from old beliefs about dualism (a good god and a bad god) to incredibly insightful personal revelations along with worldview philosophies are challenging and compelling.
Ultimately, Luca has to face himself and what he believes personally. At the end, he realizes that no matter how long we have on this earth, all must deliberate who are we and why are we here in order to find and achieve our own peace.
Immortal is Traci Slatton’s first novel.