Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab


This is another book I've been anticipating for quite some time, thanks to buzz on Twitter and the book world. It took me a bit to finally pick up the book and plunge into it, though, but I was immediately captivated by Addie's story.

Addie LaRue is 23 in the summer of 1714, living in the small French village of Villon. She's pretty much lived her whole life there, not venturing much past the village boundaries. Yet Addie is burning with the desire to see the world; live a life much bigger than what awaits her in Villon. She has arrived at a point in her life where choice has been taken away: she is set to be married at sunset to a local man she does not love. Addie knows her life will become dreary, filled with unending tasks and bearing children until she simply grows old and dies. A life that is not at all what she wants. In a bid to escape the inevitable, she runs to the woods on the way to the chapel, and begs the gods and goddesses for a new life-she will do anything  to escape life in Villon. 

And someone does appear-a very dark god, indeed. The devil himself, to make a bargain with Addie: she will have the freedom she craves, but at a price: her soul in return, when she is weary of life. Addie agrees, but soon finds out the bargain is a curse, and a cruel one, at that. Not only is she immortal, but her desire to be free means no one remembers her; she cannot tell people her name, and she has no way to leave a memory of herself behind. She is doomed to wander the earth every day, unable to have a home, a lasting love, or even simply being remembered by anyone who crosses her path. Within minutes, she is forgotten. 

Most of the first half of the novel chronicles Addie's rough beginnings in her new life as she discovers she can be injured, can be voraciously hungry; even freeze at night-but it won't kill her. She can speak to a person, and that person walks away and returns with no memory of who Addie is or what she wants. Addie learns to live by her wits, stealing food and clothing, wandering cities and figuring out the game that will keep her sane. And Luc, the devil who made the deal, visits her every so often to remind her she only has to say she's done and it will all be over. Yet Addie is determined to never give in to Luc, and continues to learn, evolve, and wander the world. 

Part of the story is also set in 2014; Addie lives in New York. She looks exactly the same, and now over three hundred years old, she's pretty wise, but also still desperately lonely. Until she meets Henry. Henry remembers her. He's the first person to remember her in over 300 years. How is this possible? Has Addie finally found someone who will never forget her?

There's much more to the story, and a heartbreaker of an ending, for sure. Addie's beginnings are very interesting, as she navigates the streets of Paris and other cities, surviving by her wits, learning skills along the way. Her pain from time after time of spending the night with someone, only to be met with confusion and shame the next morning, is devastating. Yet with Henry, she has a chance, finally at happiness. Or will fate be cruel once again?

I did like the characters; Addie is especially tough and complex, as would anyone who is immortal and utterly dependent on themselves. It is interesting to think about being alone while in the midst of a pandemic. We are all forced to spend less time with friends and family; often spending whole days alone with no personal contact. I cannot imagine going through hundreds of years that same way. The mixture of art and literature, and the ways Addie finds loopholes in her curse to leave some trace of herself behind are interesting, and frame the beginning of each section of the book. 

I can't give away the end, and it may satisfy or disappoint you--definitely something to discuss! Addie is a character you won't soon forget; after all, that's what she wants--and she succeeded with this reader. 

Rating: 4/6 for a powerful novel about time, love, memory, and the traces we leave behind. How do you leave a legacy when no one remembers you? 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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