The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Literary
Last week I wished for a big, immersive book to keep my mind far away from reality. Thanks to a recommendation from my friend, Susie, I got it. And, once again, in the way of the bookish universe, it was about making a wish. Or, at the very least: Be careful what you wish for. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a novel that spans 300 years in a mere 400 pages and makes the journey unforgettable.
Addie is a 23-year-old woman in 1700s France who is about to be married to an older widower with three children. She runs away before her wedding and makes an offering to the gods that she be free and allowed to live the life she chooses. Her wish is granted, but with another aphorism—the devil is in the details. Literally, in this case. She wants to move freely through life and she’s given this gift, but the cost is she has no more impact than a breeze on the lives around her. Recognized when she is there, forgotten the minute she is out of sight. Her family is lost to her, as is anyone she interacts with as soon as they leave the room. She also never ages, but she cannot leave a trace of herself in any way—no writing, photos, family…she can’t even say her own name.
All of this makes for an epic, but lonely existence. For almost 300 years, Addie wanders the globe moving in and out of eras and world events like a time-traveling ghost. She leaves no imprint. It isn’t until the year 2014 when she steals a book from a shop and meets a man who sees her. And remembers her. Who Henry is and how the rules of Addie’s deal with the devil might be reshaped open The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue into unexpected and creative realms.
There is so much to contemplate in this novel. Author V.E. Schwab does a marvelous job weaving the golden grand idea of experiencing the wonders of the ages without aging with the frightening and dangerous aspects of living life without a presence. A job, a home, an income are all impossible for a woman no one remembers from one moment to the next. Sometimes, the anonymity saves her life, but at others it costs her dearly. There is no such thing as a relationship for Addie except the unexpected and unwelcome one with the being who granted her wish and who reappears from time to time.
Unless handled properly, a novel this expansive could be a tangled mess or a slogfest of arcane details. Schwab ensures neither happens. Yes, it is a fantasy because of its premise, but Addie’s life, the lives of those she meets (and meets again and again), and all the emotions in the novel are grounded in reality. This care and balance make The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue a novel that sparks the imagination while provoking the mind.
If you like novels that blend fantasy and reality I highly recommend The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
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