Author: Adelia Saunders
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Anticipated Release Date: January 17, 2017
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.
I received a free e-galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Indelible is a work that truly left me thinking. Adelia Saunders’ debut novel left me questioning, and even while writing this review I’m still trying to gather my thoughts.
This story, if I had to describe it wholly with a single word, is unique. Luckily, I’m not left to just one word to describe such a thought-provoking book (as it would be a crime) so onward we go…
A mix of mystery, intrigue, hardship, and heartbreak–Indelible is an extraordinary, well-voiced work. Saunders beautifully crafts diverse characters whose burdens become our own. Her characters adequately showcase her true gift as an author. They are confusing, complex, and realistic in all the best ways.
Magdalena’s character specifically encompasses so much depth. With the power to reveal even a person’s deepest secrets by simply glancing at the stories embedded on their skin, Magdalena struggles throughout the book’s entirety to cope with the repercussions of her gift.
Not only was Magdalena a wonderfully constructed character, but also both Neil and Richard were so immensely complicated. They make up a truly thought-provoking father/son pairing, but are also completely enticing as individuals. The true gem of Saunders’ novel is her unmatched talent for producing exceptional characters.
This book is told from three perspectives: Magdalena’s, Neil’s, and Richard’s, respectively. I’m not going to lie—it was hard to follow. I adore when authors incorporate multiple story lines and clearly articulate the story from different character’s perspectives. However, I think Saunders struggled with this throughout the first half of the novel. It took until I was 50% done with the novel on my Kindle for each of the plot lines/characters/perspectives to start making sense to me completely.
The story also jumps back and forth from past to present with no warning for the reader—I think that this contributed to the ongoing confusion. Richard would start discussing research on his mother in France and then the story would switch to a memory from his aunt & uncle’s farm in Colorado in the following paragraph. Sometimes it became just a bit too scrambled for me to keep up.
I also was hoping for more of an exclusive conflict regarding Magdalena’s gift. The story begins to turn into a search for her own identity, which is fantastic (I love when characters blossom into independent and curious adventurers), however, with a title such as Indelible (it’s defined by Merriam-Webster as “producing marks that cannot be erased”) I had hoped that Magdalena was going to face a bigger conflict resulting from her all-knowing power.
With that being said, it still managed to captivate me. I, unfortunately, had to adapt to a very sporadic reading schedule with this book (back-to-school did not treat me kindly in the personal reading department) so I was only able to read a little bit at a time. My reading journey with Indelible spanned over an entire month but even with slightly confusing chronology and constantly switching perspectives, I remained an eager reader. To me, that says a lot about Adelia Saunders’ skills as a storyteller.
Saunders’ debut novel is definitely a strong one. It kept me on my toes and excited me endlessly because I just had to know what was going to happen next. I really enjoyed my experience reading her debut and am excited to see what Saunders has in store for the future.
Indelible: 3/5 stars.