Tuesday, February 22, 2011

REVIEW: The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard

The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard. Published 2011 by HarperCollins. Literary Fiction.

The Fates Will Find Their Way is a moving missing-girl novel about a group of boys and their changing relationships and paths through life, centered on the stories they make up about what might have happened to a pretty classmate who goes missing one Halloween night. Nora Lindell is an attractive teenager who disappears during trick-or-treating; nobody knows what happened to her but her disappearance haunts the town and particularly the boys who were smitten with her.

The story is told through the eyes and thoughts of one of them, often through a "we" encompassing the entire group. They make up elaborate stories about her life; they think they see her on television or at an airport. They keep a cautious eye on her beautiful sister and her damaged family as they make their own way through life.

Artfully written and easy to read, it's a story of middle class suburban angst balanced on the uncertainties and chaos of life. My favorite parts were the boys' made-up stories about Nora's life after her disappearance. They imagine she marries, that she travels the world- and that she dies. Other passages about the boys' real lives were less interesting for me, maybe because I just liked their daydreams more than their actual lives. I will admit I don't find suburban white-boy angst to be the most compelling subject of fiction, and Nora herself never really came alive for me. She is an icon- something to be revered but not someone we can ever know. She eludes us, and the boys, and because I couldn't get to know her, I couldn't understand what it was about her that made her resonate so with the boys. The mythic Nora is innocent at times, deeply sensual at others, a perfect projection of the boys' fantasies. And these fantasies help them cope not only with her disappearance but the uncertainty that haunts their own lives.

On balance I enjoyed reading The Fates and I think its carefully crafted writing will appeal to many kinds of readers of popular and literary fiction alike. Lacking the kind of down-to-earth detail and resolution of other recent missing-teen books like Miriam Gershow's wonderful The Local News or Stewart O'Nan's Songs for the Missing, The Fates is a quiet, dreamy novel about the mysteries of the heart, and it's a lovely little read.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.