BookBrowse Reviews The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria E. Schwab

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

by Victoria E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria E. Schwab X
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria E. Schwab
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  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book



V.E. Schwab, author of children's books and the bestselling Shades of Magic series, returns with a magical realism novel geared toward adults.

Voted 2020 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

In The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, readers follow the eponymous heroine through history, from rural 18th-century France to modern-day New York City. As a child, Addie is told by an older friend and mentor, "No matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark." When a crisis unfolds, though, she does the unthinkable and summons the type of being she was specifically told to avoid. She tells the creature (it's not clear if he's a demon, a god, or Satan himself), "I want a chance to live. I want to be free...I want more time," and with that, she sells her soul. Such Faustian bargains are never straightforward, and what Addie doesn't realize is that while the deal means she'll live precisely as long as she wants to, the flipside is that she will leave no mark of her passage, no proof she existed; she is cursed to be forgotten through all time. The story follows her escapades over the next 300 years until something remarkable happens in New York City in 2014: someone remembers her.

Addie's antagonist, whom she names Luc, always visits her on the anniversary of their agreement to ask if she's ready to give up her soul yet (at which point her body would die). Of course, the stubborn young woman refuses each time. The plot bounces back and forth between these visits and Addie's life in 2014. After the initial setup, the chapters occurring in the past illustrate how she learns to adapt to her curse while simultaneously exploiting its loopholes and actively seeking to thwart Luc's decree that she be completely forgotten. (She can't write a song, for example, but she can inspire others to do so, thereby leaving subtle traces of her presence throughout time.) Although she experiences history — she's in France for the Revolution and in Germany during World War II — the book contains surprisingly little historical background, with the focus of these chapters remaining solely on Addie, the curse and her love-hate relationship with Luc, the one "person" who knows her. As the plot progresses, the emphasis gradually shifts to the present and the mystery of why one person seems immune to the spell.

Everything about the novel is stellar, from the pacing to the characters to the exceptionally well-thought-out plot. Schwab's writing, too, is superb, convincingly reflecting the longing at her heroine's core while at the same time being beautifully descriptive:

Addie misses stars. She met a boy, back in '65, and when she told him that, he drove her an hour outside of L.A., just to see them. The way his face glowed with pride when he pulled over in the dark and pointed up. Addie had craned her head and looked at the meager offering, the spare string of lights across the sky, and felt something in her sag. A heavy sadness, like loss. And for the first time in a century, she longed for Villon. For home. For a place where the stars were so bright they formed a river, a stream of silver and purple light against the dark.

Indeed, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any flaws in this novel at all. At times reading like a fairy tale, at others like a romance, I enjoyed every minute; I still smile when I think about it — truly the sign of a great read.

At the risk of pigeon-holing The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue as "chick lit" (a label that belies the book's depth), I imagine the plot, with its strong heroine and romantic leaning, will appeal most to female readers. I wholeheartedly recommend it for a broad audience, though, as a feel-good and overall charming read. The novel would also be an excellent choice for book groups, as it raises many wonderful topics for discussion, such as the lengths one might go to for love or what one might do with eternal life.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in October 2020, and has been updated for the December 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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