This book sort of danced on and off my radar until a guy I follow on BookTok (which is TikTok but about books, in case you aren’t In the Know) read it and proceeded to wax rhapsodic about it for a solid week, at more than one point calling it his favorite book of all time. This, from someone whose book tastes I am already inclined to trust, is absolutely a phrase that is going to cause me to sit up and take notice, and the book got ordered immediately.
tl;dr: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue isn’t my favorite book of all time, but it’s my favorite book of the year with a damn bullet so far.(*)
The titular Addie LaRue, having sold her soul to the devil in the 1700s, is suffering under a curse: no one remembers her once she’s out of their sight. Any interaction with her is instantly forgotten, and any trace she’s left in the world disappears as well; things she breaks are immediately repaired, her writing vanishes from paper, and she cannot say or write her own name. She is also effectively immortal; she cannot die of thirst or hunger (although she can experience both) and minor wounds, at least, vanish instantly; one presumes she would survive larger injuries as well although the book spares us a scene where she tries to, say, jump off a bridge or anything like that. As the book begins, she is over 300 years old, and the devil, who she calls Luc, has been visiting her on the anniversary of her deal from time to time to see if she is ready to end her curse.
(Let’s address the book’s biggest weakness head-on: if you’re thinking hey, that kind of sounds like Hob Gadling from Sandman #13, you’re absolutely right, and while other than in the broadest strokes the book doesn’t borrow from that story much, the line “Death is a mug’s game. I got so much to live for.” would not sound entirely inappropriate coming out of Addie’s mouth.)
The book jumps around from “now” in 2014 to various points in time throughout Addie’s life, as she evolves from a terrified, orphaned young girl to someone who is effectively a master thief, who more or less survives solely through stealing everything she needs. You can imagine life for someone who cannot be remembered can be terribly difficult; you can’t rent a room, because your reservation disappears; you can’t hold down a job, because the second your new boss wanders into the back room he’ll forget you exist, you can’t even have a meal at a restaurant because your waitress will forget about you immediately. Relationships and friendships are effectively impossible, although Addie has a reasonably active sex life– she’s just grown unfortunately used to the men not remembering her when they wake up the next morning. But as it turns out, it’s not hard to charm people when they forget who you are every time you disappear from their view– you can just try again with a different approach the next day, or the day after that, and as the book starts she’s effectively been living with the same guy for several weeks.
There’s a lot more to it than that; I’m making it sound like a thriller and it’s absolutely not; it’s both richer and more character-driven than one would typically expect from that kind of book; this is not quite a Litratcher, as it’s a bit more story-heavy than I typically see in my Smart Person Books, but it’s still smart as hell and I need to check out more of Schwab’s work. Eventually, Addie meets someone who actually can remember her, and from there the story really takes off.
This book does a phenomenal job of dealing with an exceptionally old character, which is a really damned difficult thing to write about, and Addie herself is a marvel of a character, and her relationships with both Luc and Henry (who are the only people she can actually have relationships with) are well-drawn and hugely interesting. Henry starts off as a little bit of a cypher but once you find out why he can remember Addie when no one else can … *chef’s kiss*
Oh, and there’s an element of art history that I liked a hell of a lot, too. More books need art history.
I loved the hell out of this book, guys, and it’s another one that’s going to be ending up very high on the list at the end of the year. Go snap it up and set aside a weekend for it.