Courtesy of Tor Books

February 18, 2021

The Defiant Joy of ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’

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V. E. Schwab’s latest novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, is the kind of haunting book that refuses to leave your thoughts. Filled with dogged hope and the determination to experience everything life has to offer, Addie LaRue’s story stretches across centuries and continents, from rural 1700s France to present-day New York.

When Addie LaRue made a deal with the devil, she got more than she bargained for. In exchange for living for as long as she wishes, she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. She cannot make a mark on the world; she cannot even say or write her own name. It is a lonely existence, but one she is determined to live to the fullest, because once she decides that life is no longer worth living, she will lose her soul. For three hundred years, her life has been filled with far too few hellos and too many missed goodbyes, until, that is, she meets a boy in a bookstore who remembers her.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue was exactly the book I have been waiting to read. As someone graduating from college this year, I have been filled with many of the same desires and questions that Addie grapples with. What kind of mark do I want to leave on the world? What do I want from the rest of my life? I went into Addie expecting some kind of answers, and the beauty of the novel is that I didn’t find any. 

Addie’s life — unending as it is — is so real. She does not have answers because she is still asking the questions. The only certainty she knows — the one desire she holds onto century after century — is life itself. This world is big and beautiful and strange, and she wants to experience every second of it. Even if she has to walk the world as a shadow, as nothing more than a smudged image in a polaroid, she will soak up every experience, every sight and every person she comes across for as long as she can.

The author has described Addie’s journey as one of holding onto a “defiant kind of joy” — which sums up the novel perfectly. Addie’s story is not always easy to read, as it’s filled with loss and pain and heartache. But, it is one that survives those things, looks ahead to the next horizon and finds happiness in the smallest of moments, like drinking a coffee in a cafe or watching the sunset. With everything we have going on in the world right now, Addie’s story is one that we need.

V. E. Schwab put her all into this book, and it is beautifully written. You can smell, taste and feel Addie’s entire journey. The other main character, Henry — the boy who can remember Addie — shares part of her narrative. His quest for a sense of purpose is a wonderful counterbalance to Addie’s seemingly aimless, but steadfast wanderings. Schwab’s take on the devil is both charming and terrifying, ancient and new. He is certainly not the god you would wish to pray to after dark, but the one you might take up if you are desperate. He steals every scene he is in, making you simultaneously want more of him and to never see him again because of the mind games he plays with Addie.

If I had one complaint to make about this novel, it would be that it is a standalone, so this is the only time we will get to walk side-by-side with Addie. The ending left me pleasurably unsatisfied, wanting more than the small glimpse we had been afforded into Addie’s life.

If you are looking for something to give you back some hope and remind you to find your own sense of a “defiant kind of joy,” The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is the perfect book to settle in with. Hers is a story you will certainly not forget.

Jessica Lussier is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at jll335@cornell.edu