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Bookworm: Erased for all time – ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’

‘Pet Nation’: A special treat for dog parents

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist
"The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" author V.E. Schwab.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”

  • By V.E. Schwab
  • c. 2020, Tor
  • $26.99, $34.99 Canada; 448 pages

The name's familiar. You've heard it before. Someone said it and you're not sure when but it's like name-ja vous. Like you should be able to recall a face but maybe you never actually met the person who has that name. Or maybe, as in "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" by V.E. Schwab, you've simply forgotten.

“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab.

She never wanted to be married. There was a world beyond her village; Adeline LaRue had seen it and wanted more, but her mother said marriage would be "good for her." Marriage and children, they were expected of young women in 1714, but Adeline never wanted to be someone's wife. So just before her parents gave her away to a man she didn't love, she ran.

She'd known since childhood about the gods who lived in woods and fields, skies and clouds. The crone Estelle, who lived nearby, taught Adeline about them, promising that if she prayed and offered gifts, she'd be answered. She told Adeline never to speak to the gods of darkness but now Adeline had no choice, no time. While her betrothed waited in her parents' garden, she prayed at twilight to be released.

Decades later, she'd call him Luc but, on that night, he was smoke, wraith-like, a bargaining god until Adeline agreed to exchange her soul for freedom. She'd surrender it when she was done with life, but the god was clever. Adeline was freed in living, but also freed of life: no one who ever met her would remember her.

The first months were difficult; she was a stranger in her own village, her name stuck in her throat until she called herself Addie. She wasn't impervious to cold or hunger, but they were uncomfortable; she learned to steal to survive, traveling wherever she wanted or wherever Luc wanted her, and that was her life for three hundred years.

Her life ... until the afternoon a quiet man said something, she hadn't heard in three centuries.

"I remember you."

Flip past the flyleaf of "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue" and you'll note that it begins where many novels do: with a short scene featuring a young woman fleeing for her life. It seems like the beginnings of a thousand other gothic novels, until you turn another page and are tossed down a time-hole.

And yet, author V.E. Schwab doesn't offer the usual time-travel trope here: the years in this tale pass chronologically and characters never travel backward, pulling readers constantly toward an unknown future for the somewhat-stereotypical Addie LaRue. Yes, this character is unbearably familiar, until you turn another page.

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And that's what you'll want to do: turn another page, and again. But here's the thing with novels: in our minds, we tend to put ourselves in them and in this novel, that's hard to bear. Imagine being erased for all time. No legacy, no love, no offspring or name on a genealogy report in the future. Then imagine reading "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue."

It's a book you won't soon forget.

“Pet Nation: The Love Affair That Changed America”

  • By Mark L. Cushing
  • c. 2020, Avery
  • $27, $36 Canada; 310 pages

Great-grandpa would think you were crazy.

In his day, dogs slept outside, maybe in the barn, or in a doghouse, if they had one. Cats caught their own dinner in the garage or shed. Neither animal came into the house for more than a minute, if that, and sleeping in bed with you? Never! So how did we get from there to here? In "Pet Nation" by Mark L. Cushing, you'll see.

Chances are, you don't need to be told the facts of pet-loving; you live them.

"Pet Nation: The Love Affair That Changed America" author Mark L. Cushing.

And so, do others: in just two years, 2002 to 2004, the human population in America increased 1.7 percent but there were 13 percent more dogs. In about a generation, we went from people who had pets, to a "Pet Nation" and it's effected our socialization and our economy.

But let's step back: for Great-Grandpa, a dog was generally more tool than pet. For him, dogs had jobs and if there was a problem, they were largely expendable. Great-Grandpa surely loved his animals, but there wasn't always room for sentimentality.

When Great-Grandpa left the farm and twentieth-century American life shifted from rural to suburban, dog ownership slowly increased until it was stable at "around sixty-two million" canines. But in the late '90s, the internet happened. People slowly became more socially isolated and, having become comfortable through the years with cartoon animals, four-footed movie and TV heroes, and online critters, we reached for what felt most comforting. If not for this, says Cushing, Pet Nation "would not have happened so fast ... "

"Pet Nation: The Love Affair That Changed America" by Mark L. Cushing.

So today, Fluffy has access to health care that would've made Great-Grandpa jealous. Fido rarely has a job to do, other than looking Instagram-cute. The world is rosy, but there's one surprising problem: says Cushing, with our love of pets firm and a pandemic at play, America is looking at a dog shortage, which could affect businesses, shelters, veterinarian practices, and law firms. The shortage, though not imminent, needs to be addressed soon, he says, or "dogs will become a luxury item."

Take two average dog owners from anywhere, put them together in a room, and you know what the main topic of conversation will be. That connection – that's what it's like to read "Pet Nation," though there's controversy written all over it, too.

Keep your eyes open, however: author Mark L. Cushing has grounded, valid information to back up every fact he shares and every shred of thought. What's more, he doesn't leave his readers to dangle or twist; what he says and what he advocates (he's the CEO of the Animal Policy Group) isn't dire or inescapable, but fixable. Agree or disagree, that's positive news and it lurks here between happy facts, great stories of people and pets, thought-provokers, and suggestions for making life better for animals and the humans they love.

That's catnip to cat lovers, you know. It's a special treat for dog parents or anyone who loves a fuzzy little being. That you? Then "Pet Nation" is a book you'll be crazy for.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.