The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
“‘Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.’”
Addie LaRue is 300 years old. In 1714 she made a deal with the devil while trying, in desperation, to flee her small village in France. The price for her immortality, she soon finds, is that no one she meets will ever remember her. Her Faustian bargain means she will be alone—forever.
Award–winning author Victoria “V. E.” Schwab has penned more than 20 sci-fi and fantasy books. In the marvelous set–up to Addie LaRue, Schwab shows Addie longing to meet someone, only to have them smitten and fall for her “for the first time, and the fifth, and the ninth,” again and again. Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vécu. Already seen. Already known. Already lived.
Each fresh day forces Addie to start anew as if every day were a day in amber, “and she is the fly trapped inside.” One New Year’s Eve, in 1899, she remarks wistfully, “Everyone will talk of the old century and the new one, as if there is a line in the sand between past and present.”
Thus runs the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue as her challenges and adventures play out across centuries and continents. She crosses oceans, lives through wars, through revolutions, through history, and through the different lives she assumes. Part of Addie’s curse, besides not being able to “leave a mark” on anyone, is her inability to leave a tangible trace, no matter how faint, on the material world. Sometimes one of the smitten men she meets will sketch her or later paint her from memory.
As the story unfolds a secondary character pursuing her doctorate uncovers this trail of portraits over the centuries that appear to be of the same woman. Others, then, can apparently leave their own trace of Addie, and she in turn will learn how far she is willing to go in order to leave her mark on a world that has long forgotten her.
Though Addie feels like a wandering ghost, she is not quite abandoned. Every year on her birthday the charming devil she has named Luc appears, checking to see if she is yet ready to give up her soul. Back in Villon-sur-Sarthe she was clever enough to tell him, “You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore.”
And so she roams. She can go without food, without heat and not wither. “But a life without art, without wonder” drives her mad. “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.”
After 323 years, things change when Addie returns to an obscure bookshop. There, a young clerk remembers her name. Henry Strauss, “so desperate to be wanted, to be loved” has made a deal with the devil himself, which is why he can utter what for Addie are magical words: “I remember you.”
But Henry has asked for only a year, and the immortal Addie is distraught. How could he have given away so much—his soul—for so little? “What a fine pair you two must make” sneers Luc, laughing at the impasse he has engineered.
Addie cannot leave a mark behind, so in the time he has left Henry begins to write her story down—the story now in the reader’s hand. We see her rebel against time, her fate, against death itself. Her story unfolds to reveal character, newfound resilience, and the courage to let go as she matches wits against an increasingly impatient Luc—with whom she has become increasingly comfortable in a type of companionship.
Plot and payoffs are well constructed: Addie realizes that the devil is lonely, and turns the table. “We are not so different, are we?” Where the devil finds only flaws in the souls he takes, Addie lectures that humans are messy. “That is the wonder of them. They live and love and make mistakes, and they feel so much.” That is why her time with Henry was worth every moment. Even the devil realizes he has made a grand mistake. To see the wonder in Addie’s eyes each time she saw something new: “I knew then I’d never win.”