It has been a good long while since I have fed the blog, and I do apologize for that, friends. My focus has been elsewhere if I’m being honest. But I think we are all moving through the strange world of the pandemic at the speed we are comfortable with, right? And with the doing of things we feel most motivated and equipped to do. I think you understand.
I will say that I wrote during the holidays like a mad woman (more on that another time) and then at the first of the year I was preparing for the release of THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and then all this month I’ve been zooming around the country, gratefully so, talking about it. But I’ve missed coming here to chat about all things books and I thought I would at last pop in on this lovely Friday and get you up-to-date on what I’ve been reading.
I’ve actually read more than usual these pandemic months, which I hear is maybe not the case for everyone, and the book I’m going to be talking about today I read in January, not just last week but it was a highly memorable read and one that absolutely invites discussion.
I picked up THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE based on a recommendation by one of the booksellers at Warwick’s, my hometown bookstore. She said it was her favorite read of 2020 and any book that is a favorite of a bookseller gets my attention. I must say from the get-go that this may not be the book for everyone. The premise is a bit troubling: A young woman living in 18th century France who is desperate to get out of an arranged marriage makes a terrible bargain with a dark deity. Addie LaRue is untried and naïve and does not realize the mistake she has made until after she’s made it, and then it’s too late. She is stuck with the terms of her bargain.
When the deal is sealed, Addie instantly becomes immortal and unrememberable. The immortality is to remind her every day of the deal she has made, and her being unrememberable is to remind her that she got what she wanted: to have to answer to no one, to not be owned by anyone, to not have to rely on anyone. The devil who answers her plea then visits to converse with her from time to time in her endless life as someone who can own nothing, not even a relationship with someone, because who could have a relationship when every person you meet forgets who you are the minute they look away from you? She can’t own property, she can’t have a job, so you can imagine the decisions Addie has to make to feed and clothe and shelter the immortal body that still responds to the agonies of hunger and cold, it just can’t die from it.
And then three centuries into her unending and hopeless existence, Addie meets Henry, a kind man who manages a bookstore, and who is somehow able to do what no one can. He remembers having met Addie LaRue. He remembers her…
V.E. Schwab, the author, is a master of the craft of writing. Her prose is smart and evocative and achingly beautiful. She is also clever and insightful. The book has the hands-down the most satisfying ending that I have read it in a long time. Honestly, I might have actually cheered aloud at the close.
I have to say that reading this book made me ever so grateful that my faith in a good and kind and almighty God precludes any dark power from having this kind of control. It was haunting to imagine what it would be like in this world if the reverse were true. This is the kind of book you will probably want to talk about with someone afterward. A good book club book, even if you have to talk about it on Zoom.
You might be wondering if the book is a thriller or a mystery or speculative fiction or some other designation. I love the review that my friend and fellow historical fiction author Greer MacAllister wrote about this novel, You can read the whole review here, but I like what she says here:
The back cover copy from the publisher describes the book as “genre-defying,” but what is there to defy? This book doesn’t blend genres, or even transcend genre. Schwab simply renders the idea of genre irrelevant—because, in the end, it is. What The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue does—what any truly great book does—is transport and transform us. And in the end, that’s the only thing that’s important to remember.
If you’d like to read an excerpt of the book, click right here. One last note. I “read” this book by listening to it on audio. The narrator, Julia Whalen, is superb. Brilliant, really. I highly recommend this version.
I am optimistic that we are going to turn a corner soon and this time of isolation and separation will be in the rearview. In the meantime, we have hope and we have books.
Would love to hear what you are reading these days…