I set a goal for myself at the beginning of the new year: to read at least 50 books by the end of it. While, according to my Goodreads account, I am already three books behind schedule (oops) I started my reading challenge off strong with a book that had flooded my social media feeds over the break. Wherever I turned, I saw the black and gold cover, and it became instantly recognizable whenever I came across it, even though I had never even read it: V. E. Schwab’s “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.”
The book follows the story of the eponymous character as she navigates an immortal life. Before her immortality, she lived in a small village in France in the 1700s. Early on, Addie’s desire for freedom and independence becomes apparent as she grapples with her limiting role as a woman of her time. As she powerlessly watches her friends marry and her family start arranging her own marriage, she desperately looks for a way to escape the gridlock. This desperation culminates on the day of her wedding as she flees before she even reaches the altar. She encounters a god of darkness in the woods into which she fled and immediately strikes a deal with the deity, trading her soul for the independent life she never got to have: “‘I want a chance to live. I want to be free … I want more time.’”
The darkness takes her desire for freedom and grants her immortality. But Addie soon realizes that her immortality comes with a heavy cost. She discovers that everyone she encounters will forget about her as soon as she leaves their sight. In the turn of a page, Addie loses all of the people from her past life. None of her friends recognize her. Her parents treat her as a stranger, kicking her out of the house in which they raised her.
Despite how unhappy she was before, Addie is even more miserable in her new circumstances. Her curse leaves her with the crushing weight of solitude and isolation, which her immortality only aggravates. For decades, Addie struggles with the limits of her curse, learning how to survive and cope with the loss of relationships with her loved ones. She is stuck in a cruel cycle of meeting and falling in love with people who are bound to forget about her. However, after three hundred years of loneliness, in which her only lasting relationship is with the god who cursed her, she finally meets someone who remembers her name.
The story features moments from Addie’s past, starting from the eighteenth century, told alongside her present-day story in New York in 2014. While time jumps back and forth, the two storylines weave together to showcase Addie’s growth and strength throughout the centuries. Although I usually don’t read historical fiction, Addie’s story had an emotional grip on me for all four hundred pages of the novel. With every person she connects with, the crushing disappointment Addie feels every time they forget her bleeds through the pages. I held on to Addie’s hope that at least one of them would remember who she was. And when one finally does, I felt like I was releasing a breath of relief alongside Addie, as the devastating weight of her eternal loneliness was finally lifted off of her shoulders.
One of the most captivating parts of the novel was the way Schwab masterfully manipulates time. With Addie’s immortality, time seems to stretch on forever, limitless. But with one plot twist, I can feel the clock ticking within the story, every flip of the page stealing precious seconds away from the characters. Time’s flexibility and unrelenting presence especially resonated with me because I read the book over the long winter break, when time seemed the most distorted to me.
The engrossing story, combined with Schwab’s beautiful, lyrical writing, reignited my love for reading, a passion that had been overshadowed by a long, stressful fall semester.