25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
How often, in this day and age, does an author find a completely original way to tell a story? Avid reader that I am, I'll tell you: Not very often. And how often, after reading a novel in a single sitting, do write an immediate review? Not very often. And how often does a debut novel--any novel--affect me this powerfully? Not very often.
This is my immediate reaction to The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. It is, and is not, the story of the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell. More accurately, it is the story of the vacuum left in Nora's wake, and of how that vacuum is filled. The tale is told in reflection by the men who were the neighborhood boys that Nora left behind, and it is told entirely in the first person plural. If you're wondering how that sounds, it sounds like this:
"It seemed we had all finally stopped looking for her, asking about her. It was a sickness, a leftover from a youth too long protracted. Of course we still thought about her. Late at night, lying awake, especially in early autumn, when we could fall asleep for a few weeks with the bedroom windows open, the curtains pulled halfway, a breeze coming in and the occasional stray dry leaf, we still allowed ourselves the vague and unfair comparisons between what our wives were and what she might have been. At least we were able to acknowledge the futility of the fantasies, even if we still couldn't control them."
This novel is a collection of those boys' fantasies, the fleshed out conjectures based upon shreds of evidence presented by impeachable sources. And, in the sharing of these speculative outcomes for Nora Lindell, we learn the true outcomes of the close-knit group that she left behind--from the immediate aftermath of her disappearance, through the decades that follow. And we see how Nora's absence shaped each of their lives.
Nora's friends are a true community, kids who grew up together and stayed local. They have a shared history. And time has transmuted Nora Lindell's fate from mystery to mythology. Their tale is told in a collective voice, and yet, individuals stand out. Paul Epstein, Jack Boyd, Winston Rutherford, Chuck Goodhue, Stu Zblowski, Drew Price, Marty Metcalfe, Trey Stephens, and Danny Hatchet all have their own stories that unfold along with their theories of what happened to Nora.
Even with the unusual voice, I found this book fully emotionally engaging. Reading it, I couldn't help but reflect on my own past, my relationships, stories I've heard, and so forth. This novel is plot-driven, literary, experimental, spare, and absolutely beautiful. One week into the new year, I'm confident that I've just read one of the top books of 2011.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
As Hamlet never said, "Maybe or not maybe? That is the question." In Hannah Pittard's THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY, it's also the answer -- the word "maybe," I mean, which is ubiquitous throughout the narrative. Predicated on the disappearance of 16-year-old Nora Lindell, the short novel explores its impact on a collection of local boys who think, "Maybe this happened to Nora," and, "Maybe THAT happened to Nora." This, in short, is the novel's conceit. Each chapter plays out a possible narrative for poor Nora, some leading to her getting in a Catalina with a stranger, some seeing her out west with a doting Mexican man, one landing her in Mumbai, India, with a female lover, and some speculating on her early and violent demise. No one knows, but everyone has a theory, and every boy cherishes and shares his own, constantly revising and enhancing it as age overtakes him and his buddies. Who knows? "Maybe" one of them is true.
The book's opening words ("Some things were certain; they were undeniable, inarguable. Nora Lindell was gone, for one thing. There was no doubt about that.") are reminiscent of Charles Dickens' opening to A CHRISTMAS CAROL ("Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.") And, indeed, Nora's presence haunts proceedings as ably as Dickens' Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. This isn't a morality tale, however. It is very modern literary fiction and, as such, will attract fans of that genre, perhaps some familiar with Pittard's award-winning short stories. There's no question but the writing is fine in a minimalist way. Here, for instance, we see Nora stepping out of the car owned by an unidentified male who has lured her to his Catalina and driven her into the woods:
"She tried walking backwards, squinting to focus through the cold, afraid to lose sight of the car and its contents. The exhaust was milky and pink in the brake lights. The headlights gave out a glow maybe twenty, thirty feet in front of the car, illuminating a triangle of dead leaves that faded completely at the root of a large elm. The smaller the car got, the faster she moved."
Some readers will be put off by the unusual point of view: the first-person plural. Thus, you get lines like, "We'd seen her making phone calls in the telephone booth outside the liquor store, inside the train station, behind the dollar store," and "Our mothers tried, but we were the ones who really could imagine it. We were the ones who could picture those twins as if they were ours." No one boy transcends another. All but one attend a private school in a mid-Atlantic state, and all have their quirks, hopes, dreams, and weaknesses. Still, they never become fully developed due to the diluting "we" factor. Instead, Pittard wants to develop the myth-making prowess of these boys, these dorky, starry-eyed teenagers who hold tight to an unsolvable mystery that has become integral to their shared coming-of-age.
As plots go, there's not a lot of impetus. Rather, Pittard's is an artistic piece working in waves that keep coming at you -- not unlike Bach's music -- with variations on a theme. While technically well done, some of the scenarios imagined by "boys plural" look more like the work of a "woman singular" mind due to the delicacy and the detail, which are often a clumsy match with the sophomoric antics of the adolescent males depicted. In fact, Pittard's hand is stronger at capturing this -- the real-life badinage and the culture of put-downs that express "love" between boyhood friends. When it comes to their various imaginings of Nora's subsequent lives, however, the book becomes less convincing.
So much depends upon the reader. I know some will embrace this as a small gem of disproportionate brightness. Others, like me, might find it intriguing, but flawed. Focus on the review and not the star rating, then; it's merely a compromise based on a reading with highlights and drawbacks, either of which might be seen more, less, or not at all by you.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard, has an obvious precedent in Jeffrey Eugenidies The Virgin Suicides. Both make use of a plural, "we", narration and both spiral outward from a tragic event. In Eugenides' novel it was the suicide of five sisters; in Fates it is the unsolved disappearance of 16-year-old Nora Lindell. Pittard doesn't simply rewrite The Virgin Suicides, however. The Fates Will Find Their way is less about Norah and the events of her disappearance and much, much more about the group of boys who grew into that 40s wondering all that time what happened to her.
The novel moves back and forth between the narrators' adolescence and their gradual (very gradual) maturation until they become aware that suddenly adulthood has found them. Along they way, they make up stories about what "really" happened to Norah--she was pregnant and ran away, she married a Mexican, she moved to India--and deal with the (seeming) realities of adulthood: too-early deaths, adulteries, miscarriages, drug addiction, and even pedophilia.
I've got very mixed feelings about the book because as many things as they were to like, I found just as many to dislike. The narration and the tone, for instance, lent the book at times a misty, nostalgic, wistful feel that could be quite effective. But it was too much that kind of tone, too monotone, and it also made left me feeling removed not only from the action but from the characters as well; I simply didn't care much about what happened, or had happened, to any of them. Despite the bits of details on their lives, none of them stood out as individuals, which made it more difficult to care. The backward-looking choral voice made them feel too ethereal, I couldn't hear their voice, feel their drunkenness, smell their pot smoking; they didn't feel like actual people. And the stilted nature of their suburban existence (which granted may have been the point) didn't help: it felt like a dated TV show at times rather than a real world to live and breathe and sweat in.
Some of the plot events added up to a nicely constructed mosaic of growing up--the loss of innocence that comes with it, the, as the narrator says, "things that adults are capable of." But I felt Pittard stacked the deck a bit too much: adultery fine, adultery and miscarriages, OK. But adultery and miscarriages and missing children and public masturbators and drunks and drug addicts and rapes and pedophiles and and and began to feel like an author not quite trusting that the real-life events were enough, that to evoke a response she needed to up the ante. She had me at adultery and miscarriages.
Along those lines, while there were several great scenes, others felt contrived and implausible; I just didn't buy that these people in this town did these things, or at least, that so many people in such a small group did so many of these things.
The narrators' "what if" stories were another concept that worked extremely well part of the time only. The premise--that we have this almost instinctive or inbred necessity to make stories up out of what we only partially know--is conveyed wonderfully. And some of the stories do a good job with the what if aspect and with the characterization of the narrators aspect, showing their immaturity perhaps, or their desires. But at times the stories were just implausible, either on their own or in the sense that these narrators would come up with these stories at these times of their lives and think of them so poetically and fully, so vividly rich in detail. I can buy that the implausibility itself says something about the characters, but it pushed that too far for me. Sometimes they felt wholly removed from the characters, seemed well-crafted stories from a writing portfolio.
The prose can by lyrical, poetic, melancholic, pitched perfect for the moment with some simply beautiful lines. At other times it blends too much together, or hits some lines that feel too much like they are aiming at poetry or come uncomfortably near to platitude.
As the book is really a bunch of vignettes strung together (well-connected ones), I shouldn't be surprised that my reaction is similar to my usual reaction to short story collections. It almost never happens that I like all the stories and I've found it all too rare that I enjoyed 3/4s of them. I'd say sixty to seventy percent is about the going rate with the stories that make up The Fates Will Find Their Way. There is a lot to like in this novel, and there's nothing to hate or strongly dislike, but the balance between enjoying and not enjoying it was closer than it should have been, which is why I picked it up and put it down several times, something I almost never do with a book and especially such a short one. Recommended in the end because there is so much to like in it, but it does fall disappointingly short.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY
Such a great idea for a book -- a missing girl, totally no clues in her whereabouts, and total speculation and plenty of what-ifs from the friends in her life as to what happened to her.
It's a Halloween night when 16 year old Nora Lindell goes missing. Where could she be? People just saw her here or there, or maybe that wasn't her? Wasn't she seen walking home from school? Wasn't she shopping at the Dollar Store? Would she really get into a car with a stranger? These ideas and maybes drift through the minds of all the friends left behind in small town America.
Told in a voice of many which is grouped in a 'we' format, we are introuduced to a tight-knit group of sixteen year old boys who cannot let go of the missing Nora. For the rest of their lives, Nora will constantly be a shadow chasing after them, teasing them to follow her -- where? Where is Nora? What happened to her? The author takes us on a journey as these friends dream up various scenarios as to how Nora's life turned out. Did she meet a brutal end, left to die alone in the outdoors? Did she hop a plane and run away to another state to start her life anew? Is she a world traveler? Does she ever think of those she left behind?
Hannah Pittard gives us sneak peeks into Nora's 'life' but more importantly into the lives of the friends she left behind. We move along with all of the boys who were once her friends, as they go through the shock of Nora going missing, continuing their education, going to college, getting jobs, marrying, having children, aging. What this reader enjoyed mostly was the life long camaraderie these boys enjoyed, going through hardships, good times, partying together, deaths of parents, suicides, accidents, marriages, divorces, in other words, LIFE. Life without their friend Nora, who, whether they realized it or not, played an important part in each of their lives and relationships even though she was never a part of them.
This is a first time effort from author Pittard and to her I shout BRAVO! I can hardly wait to see what gift she bestows on us next.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2011
I just realized that I never posted my review of The Fates Will Find Their Way. I finished it weeks ago and wrote my review immediately but somehow (I blame it on the fact that I started a new job so my routines are all out of whack) it never made it to posting. It was a great book and I actually want to go back and read it again after rereading my review because I remember different things I loved about it.
The Fates Will Find Their Way is about the disappearance of a girl named Nora and how it affects a group of boys who knew her, as well as their lives years later. They are so tied to what may or may not have happened to Nora that they imagine different scenarios which could have happened on the night Nora went missing. All the scenarios are so real you forget you are reading about their hopes and fears.
The story itself is so tragically real. It is what I think would happen to the friends of a teen who goes missing. They would imagine the worst case scenario but also imagine the things she could be doing if she were alive after that night. The boys ponder various stories which always lead to the loss of her and they allow their hope to leave them grasping at straws. They live for the unknown, for the possibility that she may be alive and happy or even alive and regretting leaving (if she left by choice).
This book was like an adult, male version of a Judy Blume story. If you took Are You There God, It's Me Margaret and extended it through the adult years and then made it about boys instead of Margaret you would have The Fates Will Find Their Way. This is a story that makes you look at what you are focused on in your own life as you read about what the boys begin to learn about themselves.
I loved the entire story but something more specific that I can't not mention is that I LOVED the ever-present phone tree.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2011
Hannah Pittard's debut novel, THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY, is a story about loss and emptiness and what happens to people when one of their own disappears forever. In this case, it's 16-year-old Nora Lindell who vanishes without a trace. Someone said they think they saw her get into a beat-up Catalina, while others are sure they saw her in a photo taken in Mumbai and still others report sightings in various places.
But as in life, over time, Nora fades into the background and the town moves on...except for the boys. The book is told in multiple voices belonging to Nora's male friends --- the kids she grew up with, attended school with, and, in their minds, abandoned. From the day she went missing, they are locked into a fog of memories and suppositions. Unfortunately, they see Nora only from their points of view. They don't seem to absorb the fact that she is the one who "the thing" happened to --- whatever "the thing" is.
Did she run away? If so, why? And to where? How could she leave her sister, Sissy, behind? Pittard told an interviewer, "I kept every chapter as a separate document, and worked on each as if I were writing a series of short stories. Each chapter opens with a focal point and circles back to it by the end of the chapter." She also came to realize that the boys played off each other and complemented one another, very much like any group of lifelong friends.
Pittard makes clear that she does not want Nora's story told. She felt she had to work her way through the labyrinth of clues and red herrings left for the reader to ponder. She makes up lives for Nora, who grows up and lives in Arizona with a Mexican cook, has three children, goes to Mumbai and falls in love with a woman. Why a woman? Because men are telling the story. The boys have gone through college, are married with children, and live in different places, but are in close touch with each other. Their families are somewhat ignorant about their continued interest in Nora.
All except one of them live ordinary suburban lives with all the accoutrements that entails. But as soon as a tip or bit of gossip surfaces, they are in touch through a telephone tree much like their mothers used as they were growing up. At some point, they begin to feel uncomfortable about their preoccupation with Nora. Shouldn't they be looking at themselves as they mature and not stay stuck in the tragedy of the past?
The architecture of the narrative is cemented in the solipsism of the boys/men. For so many years, they have lived with women who they don't even realize they feel are lesser --- lesser than what readers may ask, lesser than their fantasies about Nora and what kind of life any of them might have had with her. Pittard does not give them any wiggle room out of their selfish fantasies. Some of them transgress and others become quite successful out in the world, but Nora is always on their collective minds. As readers work their way through the novel, they might try guessing what could have happened to Nora, but the ending is a surprise.
--- Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a small concept book, very short and insular in premise, that deepens and reverberates eloquently. When a sixteen-year-old high school girl goes missing one Halloween from a "mid-Atlantic" (and obviously small) town, she is mythologized by the people she left behind, especially a group of her male peers. The narrative covers several decades, in a non-linear but succinct, crisp structure. The narrators are a group of voices that become one voice, a collective consciousness of sorts. The reader doesn't distinguish differences between the voices, which Pittard intended. I liked the concept in theory (the collective voice) but occasionally, in reading, the lack of discrete voices was understimulating.
The missing girl, Nora Lindell, becomes more than herself. She morphs into an enigma, and eventually into a symbol of "a tally of the people who left us behind." Nora is merely a point of departure to explore and examine the lives of these boys, now men, who failed to live large, whose dreams were often squelched, and who sometimes made poor choices. Their fantasies of Nora's life or death after that Halloween are projections of their own private guilt, fears, diminished dreams, and desires. Nora herself alternately fades and hovers in the subconscious of these men's lives. She becomes their cherished avatar.
The prose is economical and lovely, giving us a haunting coming-of-age story that is innovative and engaging. I did have a bit of a problem accepting that the voices were male, as it read as soft and female to me. I wasn't convinced that these disembodied voices were attached to male characters, and it became a weakness that occasionally removed me from the story's authenticity. (The gender is quite significant in the book's context and mood.)
As a debut novel (really, novella), it is still an impressive and courageous accomplishment. A few wobbly parts, yes, but I am glad I read it, and look forward to watching this author mature.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Lately, there have been a plethora of books about missing girls and what they signify for those left behind. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children by Sara Braunstein and Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan spring instantly to mind.
In Hannah Pittard's absorbing The Fates Will Find Their Way, this territory is mined again, and quite convincingly. Sixteen-year-old Nora vanishes one day and no one knows quite what happened. What's left is a series of rumors, imaginings, suspicions, and what-ifs from teenage boys whose lives she touched.
Ms. Pittard makes a risky choice in using the first person plural for narration - the "we" tense. It's a hard tense to pull off, but she does it quite well. For instance, as the boys grow to men, she writes, "We owned homes, had wives. Some of us had more than one child by then. In many ways, we were kings. Everything was ahead of us..."
But is it? As the fates dictate that the boys settle down into preordained future roles, something is lost in each of them. At one point, the narrator looks back to a time when the future was more limitless: "Our only limitation was our imagination, and that school year - and every school year after - our imagination seemed to grow, to outdo, what we'd ever believed possible. We outran our wildest fantasies. That is, until Nora Lindell went missing..."
Nora is the fixed mark in time of all that might have been. Her life remains limitless, at least in the imaginings of her now-adult classmates; she took off to Arizona, she became pregnant, she married a much-older man, and so on. Their lives, however, are constrained by the realities of life, the wives and the babies and jobs and the homes as they sleepwalk forward. Ms. Pittard writes, "Certain outcomes are unavoidable, invariable, absolutely unaffectable, and yet completely unpredictable. Certain outcomes are that way. But maybe not Nora's. Maybe she was the only one who escaped..."
This haunting and minimalistic book has but one flaw in my opinion: Nora is consistently a symbol and never acquires that real-life mystique and fascination that would cause these teenage boys to remain starry-eyed and reverent way into adulthood. The conceit overpowers the reality of the story.
That aside, there is some mighty fine writing from a debut author and some deep psychological insights that keeps the reader turning pages. The Fates Will Find Their Way is a lovely little gem.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Fates Will Find Their Way" is a tough book to summarize in a review. At its simplest, the book is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Nora, who goes missing from an unspecified mid-Atlantic town. But it's not a mystery or thriller or police procedural. Instead the book looks at those left behind, specifically the group of high school students (nearly all boys) who were Nora's neighborhood friends. The book is written in the first person plural, as if it were being told by the group of Nora's male friends. Although it sounds odd, this works well and you get a real sense of the individual boys in the group, as well as Nora's sister and a few other neighborhood characters. The book examines the effects of Nora's disappearance on the boys -- how they try to deal with the sense of loss and ambiguity surrounding her abrupt departure from their lives -- but it also contains the boys' reflections on growing up, moving on, and living in the moment. It's the kind of book you can read in one sitting and it's arresting & interesting enough to keep you glued to your chair as you do so.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2011
This book is well written, hard to put down, engaging and tells a story in a fresh thought provoking way. Don't be put off by the feeling it's a horror story because it is not. Better than all of Tana french's books and I am a fan of French. Pittard is a stronger writer structurally and book delivers in the end without feeling like all the loose ends have been neatly tied up like french's books..
Thought provoking ideas posed about life, aging, expectations, dreams and desires.