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To prepare for a trip to the Baltics, Indelible by Adelia Saunders offers a glimpse into post-Soviet Lithuania. Transport to modern-day Paris, too, as readers follow along with three travelers navigating through their pasts.
Women’s Fiction and Magical Realism.
Reading books that travel to a destination that I’ve been to or am heading to is one of my favorite pastimes. When planning a trip to Lithuania, I noticed that American libraries–at least those near me–lack contemporary literature in the Baltics. Luckily, my library had a more indie title in stock, Indelible by Adelia Saunders.
Although Indelible mostly takes place in Paris, the characters span across the world via their pasts. Readers hop planes, buses, and ships to rural America, Lithuania, Paris, London, and Spain. Delicately, Saunders peppers the consequences of WWII on a post-Soviet Lithuania throughout the book as an inescapable past.
True to the word ‘indelible,’ the book imprints stories of pain, love, and friendship that are impossible to remove. Secrets and truths appear on skin like sunburn as we learn about Magdalena, Neil, and Richard’s journeys to find themselves.
Indelible by Adelia Saunders Review
Meet 3 Characters On Their Personal Pilgrimages Through The Past
True to contemporary fiction, alternating storylines are trending. Indelible is no different and follows along with three unique but equally lost characters:
Magdalena is a Lithuanian living in Paris. She occupies a small apartment with a scumbag roommate and voyeur with implied PTSD. Magdalena also carries a secret and what she deems a curse. Tattoos appear across peoples’ skin, and she can read their truths.
These magical ink markings speak of the past, present, and even future. However, Magdalena is not a superhero and cannot save people from their fates, including her best Lithuanian friend, Lina.
Neil is an international student studying abroad in London. Offered a coveted spot on his professor’s research team, he heads to Paris for the summer to study a pilgrimage and ancient cathedral.
Although Neil mostly has his life together, the relationship with his father is awkward. Neil is tied to Magdalena over belated Christmas gifts between their parents. The kid never brushes his teeth, either.
Richard, Neil’s father, heads to Paris on a mission to discover the truth about his infamous and estranged mother. As a Sylvia Plath-like writer, Inga Beart, has always lived in the public eye as a highly criticized but equally brilliant and unpredictable author.
With a scathing new biography out since her death, Richard is on the hunt to determine if his mother ever visited him as a small child. Growing up with his Aunt Cat, Richard swears that he remembers Beart’s strappy red shoes. What Richard learns in Paris changes the course of his imagined past.
When Histories Converge
Throughout Indelible, Saunders carefully weaves together Richard, Neil, and Magdalena’s stories across the world. Neil is constantly trying to navigate his relationship with his father but cannot even seem to mail him Christmas presents let alone pick up the phone. They never even realize that they are both in Paris.
Magdalena discovers that she is connected to Neil during their Christmas present swap. Her mother’s name is written on Neil’s forehead. Why is this?
Distracted by the recent death of her friend, though, Magdalena finds herself filled with guilt and sadness. Magdalena and Lina are products of a post-Soviet upbringing, and their struggles follow them into their adult lives. Left only with a box of ashes, she must reconcile past mistakes versus moving forward.
Richard falls into the backdrop of the narrative–the story of his life. Lonely and a little off, Richard is still endearing albeit desperate. You want so badly for his life to turn around.
Each of their pilgrimages leads to their salvation, in a non-religious way but fitting with Magdalena’s journey across parts of Europe.
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Although I cannot quite place the feeling, Indelible by Adelia Saunders feels like an intense read. This is not a title that you can skim or rush through. A few times, the story slowed pace, but the messages and history added overwhelming power and beauty. Magdalena touched my heart just like every traveler she meets.
More importantly, Magdalena represents strength, honesty, and kindheartedness to create an uplifting tale in the light of tragedy and pain. I couldn’t imagine bearing her weight. As she poetically watches the world through a quiet camera lens, I found myself wondering what I would do in her shoes.
Ultimately, Magdalena bears the weight of the world yet she can do nothing to stop the atrocities she sees. Powerful and powerless, Saunders plays with the role of women in our histories and upbringings throughout Indelible. We see women as mothers, lovers, friends, victims, and family members.
Magical realism is not always my favorite genre, either, but the tattoos are perfectly realistic and symbolic in Indelible. You hardly realize that the inscriptions aren’t really there. Truths ground the plot in realism.
Prior to planning a Baltics trip, I would have never picked up Indelible. I am so glad that I did.
If you are looking for more World War 2 stories, be sure to check out this Best Books About WW2 book list.
Indelible Book Information:
Indelible by Adelia Saunders [Bloomsbury 2017] | Buy on Amazon
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction & Magical Realism
Indelible is Adelia Saunders’ first novel. Her past work includes teaching in Paris and working with an agricultural economist in Uganda. At the time of this review, her website is sadly expired.
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