Indelible- Adelia Saunders
In this masterful, enthralling debut novel about fate and family history, a young woman sees the truth about people written on their skin.
Magdalena has an unsettling gift. She sees writing on the bodies of everyone she meets—names, dates, details both banal and profound—and her only relief from the onslaught of information is to take off her glasses and let the world recede. Mercifully, her own skin is blank.
When she meets Neil, she is intrigued to see her name on his cheek. He’s in Paris for the summer, studying a medieval pilgrimage to the rocky coast of Spain, where the body of Saint Jacques was said to have washed ashore, covered in scallop shells. Desperate to make things right after her best friend dies—a loss she might have prevented—Magdalena embarks on her own pilgrimage, but not before Neil falls for her, captivated by her pale eyes, charming Eastern European accent, and aura of heartbreak.
Neil’s father, Richard, is also in Paris, searching for the truth about his late mother, a famous expatriate American novelist who abandoned him at birth. All his life Richard has clung to a single striking memory—his mother’s red shoes, which her biographers agree he never could have seen.
Despite misunderstandings and miscommunications, these unforgettable characters converge, by chance or perhaps by fate, and Magdalena’s uncanny ability may prove to be the key to their happiness. Indelible pulses with humanity and breathes life into unexpected fragments of history, illustrating our urgent need to connect with others, and the past.
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My Review: 3.5 Stars
Trigger warning: suicide, suicide attempt, and sexual harassment
The premise of this novel greatly intrigued me. What would it be like to see words on someone's skin and know their fate? How would I respond to that kind of gift? How does Magdalena respond? I thought this would encompass the bulk of the novel based on the synopsis but the story centers more on Magdalena, Richard, and Neil and how their paths intertwine.
Magdalena lives a diminished life because of her gift. She quickly learned as a child it wasn't normal to see words written on skin and that no one else could see them. She stops telling people the stories written on their skin and she even starts wearing strong prescription glasses so the world becomes blurry and she can't see the words at all. She carries a great deal of guilt with her after her best friend dies, feeling the clues were there all along on Lina's skin and she could have prevented it. This was the most interesting part of the novel, though trigger warnings abound. The tone of the novel made some of the content choices extremely unexpected and hard to read at times and for that reason, I recommend this with reservations.
Magdalena, Richard, and Neil are all waking up to their lives in different ways and much of this awakening predicates on how their paths cross. There was strong character development throughout, particularly as Magdalena grappled with her ability, but the story moved slower than I would have liked. I did, however, like how the author lets us come to our own conclusions about each character's history and choices. There are no tidy conclusions But as they began to move forward, I was left with a sense of hope.
Disclosure: I was provided an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links used in this post.