Stories are remarkable. They help preserve ourselves, to help us remember or to forget things. But what if you can’t leave a mark? No matter how hard you try, people forget you the moment they turn their backs. Imagine what that does to someone. For some, it might be a welcome treat; for others it would be utter torture. Such is the crux of human existence – we don’t want to be forgotten and yet, how do we make an impact when our lives are so short?
That is the conundrum V.E. Schwab, award-winning author best known for her Shades of Magic series, Vicious, and children’s and young-adult fiction, presents us in her newest novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
No matter how hard she tries, Adeline (Addie) LaRue can’t make people remember her. She isn’t able to write her story, say the name she was born with, or leave a mark. And she’s had to live like this for over 300 plus years. Stealing. Lying. Doing anything she can to survive. Her curse starts in the 1700s when her parents want her to get married, causing LaRue to flee her wedding and pray to any god that will release her from a shackled life. All she wants is to be free, to do as she pleases. And her prayers are answered, but not by a benevolent god.
As a result of their agreement, anyone who leaves her presence can’t remember meeting her. Over time, she accepts this and learns to handle her new life with aplomb, acquainting herself with famous writers, musicians, and artists such as Voltaire, Descartes, and Rousseau. Through perseverance and patience, Addie discovers a way to leave a mark: acting as inspiration, an idea. Her abundance of time results in her blurred existence appearing in famous paintings, all with the telltale freckles that look like constellations streaming across her face.
But after stealing a book one day, someone does remember her. Henry Strauss, a quiet guy working in a bookshop remembers her, though everyone else around them can’t. The more involved she is with Henry, the more she realizes she might be able to change her path forever. Their lives are entwined from the moment they meet until she learns that he has been harboring a secret as well.
Schwab does an amazing job of pinpointing the idea that if you haven’t left a mark on the world, can anyone say you even existed? There are so many people in this world who haven’t shared their story through social media, who’ve yet to leave their mark, and as a result, their stories disappear. Perhaps that’s why so many people want to share so much of themselves with complete strangers online — it marks a time for them.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a heartwarming story about how precious our lives can be. Schwab takes us on a beautiful and lyrical adventure spanning 300 years without ever feeling like a chore. She lures you into the story with ease and makes you feel the pain and suffering Addie goes through trying to leave a mark on the world. Our lives on Earth are short so leaving a legacy is the only way to mark our time here. And if you don’t leave a mark, who’s to say you truly lived at all?