The last time a book this good came along it was The Imperfectionists, a debut novel that has since become a household name in the literary world (everyone on this email alert remembers my calls about that book). Hannah Pittard’s brilliant The Fates Will Find Their Way, is certainly the best book of 2011. It’s very difficult to hold back my praise, as this novel demands your attention, and will stay with you for a long time.
I want to tell you this book is just like Songs for the Missing, but the missing girl never…well…I can’t spoil it for you. In Fates, Pittard uses a sparse and cliché free prose to deliver a widely expansive dissection of suburban life very similar to John Updike’s Rabbit series. At the center of this story is a very interesting unknown male narrator who tells the story of Nora Lindell, a girl who on page one has gone missing. In the first fourteen pages we find out about every single other person who has had contact with Nora, seen her on her last night, while our narrator describes her most intimate details. She might have been pregnant; the father could have been Trey, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who in the end…gets his…
Sissy, Nora’s sister, is a bit of a tart, and so much is revealed through Sissy, she is almost as important to the story as anyone else. What really impresses me is the voice that hints at the truth, but never really tells you what happened. Nora might have gone to live in Arizona, and this is where Pittard disappears from the novel, (she never really shows her hand) and we become completely engulfed in what could have been. The narrator also imagines the other boys in the town, a mass ejaculation (it is a great scene, funny, and so much a part of what it’s like to be a teenager), and then imagines that Nora went to another part of the world, and lived another life…but maybe she just died under the snow that piled over her body as she hid from the man who abducted her on page one?
There isn’t a neat path lined with white stones that will help you figure out what happened. Pittard wildly and with mature skill navigates a story told from all directions, different experiences and countless points of view. All the while, she tells us about life, and how much it can suck, or in some cases, be revealing. Would a teenage boy ever be the same if he once allowed a middle age woman to take advantage of him? What happens if your mother tells you to steal the family dog back from your father? These questions are asked and sometimes answered, and become part of the overall fabric of this incredible story. I savored the last ten pages and put them off as long as I could, but then I realized I could just start the book again when I was done, which I did. Will you ever find out what happened to Nora? Maybe…
- In Praise of Unlikable Characters (themillions.com)
- The Happiest I’ve Been by John Updike – Olinger Stories (threeguysonebook.com)
- Over years, four narratives knit together (boston.com)