What's better than a weekend in lockdown? Okay, okay, pretty much everything. But what's marginally better? A weekend in lockdown with a good book. Here are two picks (one fiction and one non) you'll gonna wanna download or pick up curbside.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
For me, 2020 was good for something. It reminded me that I used to love reading, loved discovering stories filled with interesting people and far-away places. Staying home did have its advantages, and I slowed down enough to dust off and charge the ol’ e-reader (libraries were closed then), curl up into the corner of the sofa and get lost. I know I wasn’t alone in this, too.
On New Year’s Day, I assumed the above position and stayed that way for the entire day. I do not exaggerate. From its very first page, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab drew me in and didn’t let me go.
It is 1698 in France, and Adeline LaRue must do what she dreads. She must marry. What she truly wants is to read, to learn, to travel to the city with her woodworker father. Society, and her mother, have other plans.
“Never pray to the gods that answer after dark,” the ancient village wise woman tells her. But Addie is frantic to escape the small life in front of her and does the unthinkable: She makes a deal with the devil. Addie can have her freedom, until she agrees to surrender her soul. But the naïve 23-year-old pays the price, because there are rules to her immortality—rules she’s unaware of—and one of them is that she is destined to be forgotten by everyone who meets her as soon as they look away from her.
As she embarks on a long and lonesome life, Addie soon realizes that she has no way to leave her mark upon the world. And so, she lives, all the while looking for ways to become known, ways not only to survive but to leave an imprint on the world around her.
And then one day she hears the words, “I remember you”.
And everything changes.
This is a well-crafted story with enchanting characters and soulful prose. Schwab’s words invoke the solitude, the fear, the humour of Addie’s days. You struggle with her, cheer for her, triumph alongside her.
This couldn’t be a better story to welcome 2021. There is resilience, bravery and tenacity but, most of all, hope. Addie perseveres in the pursuit of legacy. After all, “What is a person, if not the marks they leave behind?”
I could have happily lived in Addie’s world for another 300 pages. And then some. —BB
Frontier Follies: Adventures in Marriage & Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere, by Ree Drummond
Five years ago, I started watching Pioneer Woman on the Food Network, and I seriously and instantly fell in love with Ree Drummond’s charm, sass and wit. Needless to say, when I found out her new book, Frontier Follies: Adventures in Marriage & Motherhood in the Middle of Nowhere, was being released—in the midst of the damn pandemic—I raced (virtually, of course) to my library to put it on hold. I was the first reader in line, thank you very much. This book was much different than I had imagined. It read more like a series of blog posts detailing whatever was on Ree’s mind at the time. There was no real chronological flow, but that didn’t bug me, because each chapter felt like a chat she was having with a friend. (With me. We would totally be friends.) From her thoughts on motherhood, fashion (or lack thereof), food and ranching, she made me LOL at some of the truly crazy situations she has found herself in through the years, like trying to grab the last donut at the gas station the day before starting a diet and shattering the glass display case. (She really wanted that donut. I feel her.) She doesn’t hold back when talking about her 24-year marriage to cowboy Ladd and their silly squabbles (totally relatable), plus how raising four kids in the country had her questioning if every decision she ever made was right for her family. Honestly, I just adore everything about her, including her sinfully delicious philosophy on cooking—butter makes everything better! The bonus of reading the book? A few unreleased recipes thrown in. They’re the icing on the cake. Pun clearly intended. —WH