This book is beautifully painful, and often painfully beautiful, and no, that’s not the same thing. This is my first foray into Schwab, which might be weird considering that I own pretty much all her books, but they stare at me in open judgement as I slowly, ever so slowly, whittle down my TBR, and then sometimes throw that out the window with books like this. All this to say, I didn’t entirely know what to expect from this author, or this book, just that I admire Schwab and her candor, and therefore auto-buy her books. So I can’t say if this is always Schwab’s voice, but my goodness, the PAIN that she manages to stuff into her main characters cut me deeply. This is such a millennial book, and I mean that in a good way. It often feels that millennials, more than other generations, suffer from this panic and anxiety driven desire to be enough, to do enough, to leave a mark, to be remembered, and then you bundle that up with the very uniquely human drive to avoid death, where we are never ready for the end… This book spoke to me on a level where I felt seen and heard, even though Schwab was doing all the talking.
This is primarily a book of characters first, plot second. A deep dive into human emotions and desires and the lengths we go to or the things we do in order to be remembered, to be happy, to be deserving of love, to see it all before this life ends a second before we are ready. So, yes, that means at times the book is slow, the tension and the stakes aren’t really there, even when Addie is stuck in war torn countries. You never worry about her or her deal. I felt more for Henry at times then Addie, and we see less of Henry. But I still felt A LOT, and that’s what this book is. It’s a state of mind wrapped up in atmospheric prose, so take that for what you will. I enjoyed it, this line made me a little teary for reasons I can’t explain: “After all, life seems very long sometimes, but he knows it will go so fast, and he doesn’t want to miss a moment.”—but I also know that this kind of character study and literary fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Schwab dove deep into her own fears and you can tell this book is so personal to her, because both characters are her.
Did things get redundant at times? Yes. I don’t need to be told so often about Addie’s freckles, or about Luc’s ever changing green eyes. Do things get a little boring with some of the flashbacks and wondering why this was the story the author included? Again, yes. Things are questionable in this book, especially around Henry and how consensual some of his escapades are… But I can’t deny that even with all that, this book felt personal. So often I found myself agreeing and connecting with Addie’s desire to just see it all, to not be bottled into a life that feels too small, to never have lived before things are over. The need to not be forgotten and to leave some kind—any kind—of mark on the world. It was such a visceral desire that it honestly made it hard to fall asleep at night because it just tugs at something deep in your (maybe just my?) psyche. But it was a beautiful ache, even if it’s not one I’m eager to revisit.
That’s the weird thing about this book. This story, more than others, even though it’s gorgeous and the writing is so, so good, I don’t think this is one of those books you can really read more than once. It’s like those sad movies where you love it so much, it speaks to your soul, and the cinematography is just flawless, but you can’t make yourself go through those kinds of emotions again. It was beautiful, but I am gutted and sad, and not because the books is over, but that’s just what life (and therefore Addie’s story) makes you feel sometimes. So yes, obviously 5 stars from me and this book will get moved to my favorite’s shelf in my bedroom, but this is also where I am going to leave Addie as well, though I promise not to forget her.
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