2011 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
In an effort to capture my favorite booksellers’ magical ability to boil a book down to its essence and pitch it to readers in a way that entices without giving too much away, I’m forgoing my usual format in favor of something that I hope packs the same Book Lady punch in a smaller package. Think of it as my version of the handsell.
Published January 25, 2011 by Ecco Books
A sixteen-year-old girl from an upscale suburban town goes missing, and the neighborhood boys she leaves behind—who narrate the book collectively—become obsessed not with finding her but with imagining what could have happened. They dream Nora Lindell into scenarios that range from predictably horrific to surprisingly romantic, and they do it with a mix of teenage wanderlust and middle-aged “If I knew then what I know now” nostalgia that reveals Pittard as a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
But the real beauty of The Fates Will Find Their Way does not lie in Pittard’s skillfully crafted narrative (undeniably influenced by Jeffrey Eugenides’s phenomenal The Virgin Suicides) or the way in which she weaves the six boys’ fantasies about Nora into their collective voice, but in the fact that she pulls off the neat trick of making us think that the book is ever really about Nora at all.
Pittard pulls us in with a familiar plotline—this is hardly the first time a novel has opened with the apparent tragedy of a teenage girl gone missing—and she makes us feel comfortable just long enough to get us to let our guard down. Then it’s the old switcheroo, and in the best possible way.
Because of course the book isn’t about the missing girl. Why write in such a unique, demanding narrative voice if it is? Like most great stories, this one is about the people who are telling it, and while the boys are busy telling us and each other about Nora, Pittard unveils their character, bit by bit, through the memories and secrets and mistakes the grown men divulge as they reflect on the story that defined their adolescence and continues to creep into the quietest moments of their adult, domestic lives.
The Fates Will Find Their Way is tightly wound, perfectly paced, and magically wise. Pittard makes a subtle but poignant statement about the power of story and what the stories we tell say about us. And the ending? WHOA NELLIE.
(And that, folks, may just be the first time I’ve ever reviewed a book in fewer than 350 words.)