In making a Faustian deal, an eighteenth century young woman escapes an arranged marriage. But the devil is in the details.
Addie LaRue gets her freedom and her wish to be her own person, even gaining immortality, but no one she meets remembers her. In The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab cleverly spans three centuries across Europe and the United States in a time travel fantasy examining the value of a legacy.
Addie initially struggles through the hardships of suddenly being without family or any means of support, but she does have her freedom, including the ability to steal what she needs and being instantly forgotten for doing it. She makes it through the plague (not the current one), fashions herself into a well-read and astute thinker when women were not expected to do more than marry and bear children. As she gallops through the centuries, her accomplishments are bittersweet because no one knows about her, forgetting her almost instantly. Later, this talent to reintroduce herself to the same person gets a little strained.
Known by her seven freckles resembling a galaxy of stars across her face, she discovers she can make her mark through others as artists use her as their muse. She fills art and music with the memory of ideas she has planted. Her devil appears occasionally over the years to taunt her with difficulties but she is never willing to surrender her freedom and her soul.
Suddenly, after 300 hundred years, she finds a soulmate in Henry, a bookstore owner who has made his own deal with the devil. To her surprise Henry does remember her, and for the first time she can hear her real name from her lover. Although Schwab nurtures the romance, true love really does not lie with these two characters. Addie’s true love is her freedom and, despite the devil’s machinations, she finds a way her to leave her mark and be remembered.
As I finished the story, with its unlikely and clever ending (I won’t spoil it for you), I remembered my own much shorter journey so far, and the marks I’ve left behind. Like Addie, most have morphed into an amalgam of pieces leading to others’ adaptations. The ideas I created may not have the same name, but most are still viable and progressed with the times, as they should. Yet, we all want to be remembered.
Caitlyn Paxson for NPR said: “Addie LaRue manages to pull off like the prestige of a particularly elegant magic trick, leaving us with the feeling that we too have been a part of Addie’s long and invisible life. I for one will most certainly remember her.”
So will I.
“Strive not to be a success but to be of value.” Albert Einstein