V. E. Schwab
Completed 10/19/2021, Reviewed 10/19/2021
This is the book club selection for December. Once again, I read it early because I wanted to get it from the Library and there are tons of holds on the e-copies and I lucked out getting a hard copy. The book astounded me. It started off a little slow, but burned itself into my heart, leaving me devastated at the end. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good modern fantasy romance, but boy, did I love it. This book has great prose, a great main character, and a really interesting plot. It bounces back and forth between the past and the present, but the chapters are pretty short and you don’t lose the plot in either timeline. This book came out in 2020 and I’m surprised this didn’t end up on more awards’ short lists.
Adeline LaRue is a young woman in the early 1700s in France. She’s about to be married off and she desperately does not want to be. She prays to the gods to get out of this marriage match, but makes a mistake by praying to the gods who answer after dark. But in the end, she sells her soul for freedom. The god in question of course finds a way to trick her and makes it so that no one remembers her once she is out of their sight. So when she returns home after making this deal, not even her parents remember her. Thus begins a three hundred year journey of trying to survive in a world that doesn’t remember her, until one day in New York in 2014, she meets a young man who does.
Adeline, or Addie, is a terrific heroine. She starts out a desperate peasant who is shocked by the reality of the deal she made with the god. Over the years, she figures out what it takes to survive when she cannot hold a job or keep a place to live. On the anniversaries of her deal, the god makes reappearances to tempt her to give up and let him have her soul. But she becomes wise to his ways, never giving in, choosing her complicated, invisible life over the alternative. When she finally meets Henry, the man who remembers her, she finally finds a love that lasts more than one date. Granted, when she dated, she dated the same man for many months, though always restarting the relationship each new day. But with Henry, she gets to actually let herself fall in love.
Henry is also great. He’s a sad sack who is just over the love of his life, a love that wasn’t returned. In fact, all his relationships ended because it seemed he was never enough. With Addie, however, she sees him for what he really is, a good man worth loving, something he’s craved his whole life.
The god, who Addie calls Luc, which could be short for Lucifer, is a major player in the story. He only pops in infrequently, but he gives Addie her whole motivation for making her plight work to her advantage. He’s not really the devil as he is one of the old gods, but he does have an evil streak. He plays games with Addie popping in when she least expects it, ruining when she has something good going. But by doing this, she learns how to read him. And after three hundred years, she gets very good at reading people.
The last fifty pages or so of the book is quite enthralling, in contrast to the first fifty which were a little slow and disorienting. When I got to the end, I was simply devastated by three words. You’ll know them when you get to them because they are in italics 😉. I had an online doctor’s appointment right after I finished the book and it was hard to keep focused on the appointment and keep my eyes from running. I still feel emotionally spent as I write this review. This merits five stars out of five.