What's in a Name? by Rebecca Zornow

Books & Literature Apr 21, 2021

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

By V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab has the depth of a legend, the pull of a retelling, and the contemporary significance readers want.

Like so many of our favorite fairy tale protagonists, Addie LaRue lives in a small town in France. She’s afraid her life is short and commonplace, and she yearns for adventure. When Addie’s parents promise her in marriage to a man she doesn’t love, Addie runs away into the black forest. She calls for help though she’d been warned to "never pray to the gods who answer after dark.”

A god agrees to gift Addie with immortality in exchange for her soul when she eventually tires of life. To weight his hand, the god gives one final curse: Addie will be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Unable to speak her name, Addie is dogged by the dark god and forgotten at every turn for three hundred years. Addie fights for meaning and connection, including within the arts where she makes herself into an unremembered, but powerful, muse.

Then, Addie’s monotonous, eternal life changes when a man in a twenty-first century New York City bookstore remembers her.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue has markings of classic French folklore in a modern American setting. Part of the fun of reading is watching Schwab transition a fairy tale story set in 1714 to modern day. We often imagine magic, if there ever is or was such a thing, could only have existed in the past, far before our sophisticated minds and technology came to be. Instead, in these pages, we’re rewarded with a tale of curses and immortality that stretches all the way to our own time.

Still, as so much of our lives’ fulfillment comes from the relationships we build, it’s difficult to see at first how Addie could make it beyond a year. These themes are especially relevant as we all currently exist in quasi removed-from-society state of being. Unlike Addie, our names are remembered and often projected into the void via Zoom, but, like Addie, we are all acutely aware of the special magic of someone saying our name…in person.

Like any good fairy tale, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue makes us ask a larger question: what is the value of immortality without humanity?

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
V. E. Schwab


Rebecca Zornow

Rebecca Zornow is a writer and book coach. She is the 2020 winner of the Hal Prize in nonfiction. Find her at ConquerBooks.com.