When Adeline LaRue was a little girl in early 18th Century rural France, she went on a trip to the city with her father. And suddenly Adeline realized that there was so much more to life than just her little village, her house, and the life she is supposed to lead. As Adeline grows older, she understands that the life she is supposed to lead holds little interest for her. And she begins to make offerings to “the gods,” asking them to hear her pleas for something more. On the day she is supposed to marry an older, widowed father of several children, she reaches her breaking point, and calls to the gods for help. One god — a god of darkness — answers. Adeline had always been told not to pray to “the gods that answer after dark,” but she had no choice. She needed a different life.
And Adeline — now Addie — got one.
Her dark god, who she comes to think of as Luc, gives her eternal life in exchange for her soul (whenever she is ready to trade). The only catch: she will never be remembered by anyone she meets. Her parents and friends have no recollection of her existence. She meets the same people over and over, and for them, it is always the first time.
Impossible to get a job, or settle down, Addie moves from place to place, person to person, night to night. Only Luc remembers her and their agreement. He comes to see her every year on the anniversary of their deal, and asks if she is ready to trade her soul yet.
Addie lives this lonely life for three hundred years. Through wars and famines. In Europe and America. Alone.
Until she meets Henry in a bookstore in Brooklyn, and something strange happens. He remembers her. But why? How?
The story is told by jumping from time to time and place to place. Once Henry is introduced as a character, sometimes we get his story, and sometimes the story is Addie’s to tell. But I was never confused, and always just wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to know more about Addie and Henry. About Addie and Luc. About what happened in New Orleans. And why Henry remembered.
The story telling was beautiful and engrossing, and I was ok with this book, until I wasn’t. Until this page broke me:
And this, he decides, is what a good-bye should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there it pick it up.
It is a door left open.
It is drifting off to sleep.
And he tells himself he is not afraid.
Tells himself it is okay, he is okay.
Reader, I cried at this part.
I imagine that this book will stay with me for quite a while. And I’m glad. I think this story was exactly the one I needed right now: it made me forget real life for a few days. No worries about COVID or my kids missing out on school or when I might have to go back to work. Just a story about a girl who wants to be remembered.