60 pages 2 hours read

V. E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a historical fantasy novel by the American author V.E. Schwab published in 2020. It chronicles the story of Addie LaRue, an 18th-century Frenchwoman who gains eternal life through a bargain with a demonic entity. However, the deal comes at a great cost: Everybody who meets Addie immediately forgets her. A New York Times bestseller, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue received a 2020 Goodreads Choice Award nomination for Best Fantasy Novel.

This study guide refers to the 2020 edition published by Tor Books.

Plot Summary

In 1714, in the French village of Villon-sur-Sarthe, 23-year-old Addie LaRue is to be married to a widower with three children. Refusing to resign herself to a life of rural domesticity, Addie flees to the forest and prays to entities she calls “the old gods.” As the sun dips below the horizon, a dark-haired, green-eyed stranger appears to grant her wish: eternal life for as long as she wants it. On the day Addie becomes too tired or bored of existence to go on, she will surrender her soul to the stranger.

After the stranger grants her request, Addie realizes there is a major caveat to her everlasting existence: Nobody remembers her. Even worse, she can neither forge new relationships nor rekindle old ones because whenever she is separated from an individual for even a second, that person forgets her. Anytime Addie tries to write, draw, or otherwise leave her mark, the words and pictures disappear. Finally, although Addie cannot die, she still feels the pain associated with hunger, cold, and injury.

The stranger—whom Addie later names Luc—expects her to surrender within a year and abandon the extraordinary hardship of her new life. For the first 12 months, she spends most nights on the streets of Paris, subsisting on stolen food and eking out meager wages as a sex worker. During her first winter since the transformation, she effectively freezes to death, only to wake up hours later in a cart weighed down by dead bodies.

Addie, however, refuses to yield, and over time she learns to navigate the world without succumbing entirely to loneliness and the pain of starvation. The hardest part of Addie’s existence is her inability to forge lasting human connections. The mornings after sex, when her paramours wake up and fail to recognize her, are the worst. She learns to cope by serving as a muse, and over the years she leaves her mark on the works of numerous famous artists and musicians.

Meanwhile, Luc appears to Addie nearly every year on the anniversary of her curse. Each time, he asks her to yield, and each time she refuses. As the decades and centuries pass, Addie comes to view Luc with something like affection, given that he is the only entity who remembers her. In 1952, the two begin a sexual relationship that lasts three decades until Addie breaks it off, convinced that the sex was merely a stratagem employed by Luc to convince her to surrender her soul.

The rest of the narrative takes place in New York City in 2014. One day, a young bookseller named Henry remembers Addie after she steals a book from his shop; it is the first and only time any human remembers her in three centuries. Addie and Henry enjoy an idyllic relationship for a few weeks until she discovers the reason Henry remembers her: He, too, made a deal with Luc. Almost a year ago, Henry’s then-girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal. In the throes of suicidal despair, he made a deal with Luc to be loved by everyone who meets him for a year. After the year ends, he will relinquish his life and soul to Luc. By the time Addie learns this, Henry only has 36 days left.

On what should be the last night of Henry’s life, Addie tells him that she made a new deal with Luc: She will be Luc’s exclusive romantic partner for as long as he will have her. In exchange, Henry will be permitted to live out his natural life. Addie and Henry never see each other again. Devastated, Henry copes by publishing Addie’s life story as a book under the title The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Addie, meanwhile, secretly vows to drive Luc mad to the point that he no longer wants to be with her, even if it takes her centuries.