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""My father always used to say that when you die, if you've got five real friends, then you've had a great life.""
– Lee Iacocca  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 6 June 2021  

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  “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”
  By Robin Widmar

   Is it a blessing or a curse to live forever?
   What seems like a simple question is actually fraught with complicated considerations. Can the immortal person live openly in society, or must they exist as a pariah? How do they make a living? Can they establish anything close to a normal relationship? V.E. Schwab tackles these issues in her novel, “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.” Apparently, Schwab didn’t think the “usual” obstacles of immortality were challenging enough, because she throws in a twist that sets this story apart from other tales of lives that never end.
   Adeline “Addie” LaRue wants what every young woman wants: to live a life of her own choosing. However, most women in 18th century France did not have the option to chase their dreams. Forced into an arranged marriage to an older man she does not love, Addie sends up a plea to any god who is listening. Unfortunately for her, the wrong one is paying attention. Desperate to escape a lifetime of domestic drudgery, she strikes a deal with a devil-like being. It comes with a hefty price tag: She will live as long as she chooses, but no one will remember her –- not strangers, not lifelong friends. Even her existing family will not know she ever existed. She cannot speak her own name, nor can she pursue her passion of art because everything she puts on paper vanishes.
   Addie lives a long life and remembers all of it. “It is sad, of course, to forget. But it is a lonely thing to be forgotten. To remember when no one else does.” Everyone who meets Addie forgets her as soon as she is out of sight, or they fall asleep. She cannot hold a job or rent a room, so thievery and deception become second nature in her fight to survive. Relationships are typically limited to one-night trysts. On the occasions when Addie develops strong feelings for another person, she manipulates circumstances so they can meet anew every day. The next morning she must start her ruse all over again.
   That is, until she meets a New York City bookstore clerk named Henry Strauss. When their first date comes to a close, Addie agrees to a second date even though she knows it cannot happen. But Henry shows up again and again, and soon Addie is contemplating her first steady relationship in 300 years. Why is Henry different from other people? “He can’t be normal — because normal people don’t remember her.”
   Henry has his own secrets, and it is not unlike Addie’s. He is not immortal, but he, too, feels invisible because the people around him do not think he is “enough.” To the disapproval of his family, he has given up on becoming a rabbi and is content to work in a small bookstore. Ambitious friends hound him for not fully applying his intellect and talents. Henry battles a host of inner demons, leading to a decision that ultimately affects both him and Addie.
   Complicating matters is the recurring appearance of the being that bestowed immortality upon Addie. She simply refers to him as “the darkness” but he also goes by Luc. Most years, Luc appears on the anniversary of their deal to ask whether Addie has had enough and is ready to give him her soul. “I will let you rest,” he says. “And all you have to do is surrender.” Despite decades of loneliness and challenges, Addie is not done living. Her answer is always “no.”
   Art plays a significant role in Addie’s life. Over the course of the story, she crosses paths with and inspires several artists. Key works highlighted throughout the book show that Addie has found a way to leave her mark in spite of Luc’s attempts to erase all traces of her existence.
   “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is a unique and yet somehow familiar story about the price a person pays for immortality. It is also about faith, doubt, hope and above all, resilience. The writing is brilliant with rich details that ensnare the reader, much like Luc has trapped Addie (but in a good way). Steady pacing, well-developed characters and settings, and imaginative plotlines combine to create a novel that is difficult to set aside.
   The story alternates between past and present and between Addie and Henry’s perspectives. Readers will want to take note of the dates at the beginning of each chapter to keep up with the time jumps. The story deals with mature themes, and there are occasional instances of adult language and sexual situations. Nevertheless, this is a book worthy of any summer reading list. The logical yet bittersweet ending ensures that readers will not forget Addie after the last pages are turned.
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