Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fates And Furies: A Story of a Marriage...And Then Some

To say Moby Dick is a story about a whale is like saying Lauren Groff's stunningly good new novel, Fates And Furies, is a story about a marriage. It is, sure, but that doesn't do it justice. In 2015, seemingly the year of the Marriage Novel, Fates And Furies is THE marriage novel. I turned the last page of this book, exhaled, and just said, "Wow."

It's the story of Lotto and Mathilde who meet at a college party, fall instantly in love, and marry two weeks later, much to the consternation of Lotto's wealthy mother, who immediately cuts him off.

In New York City, the newlyweds struggle to make ends meet. Naïve, narcissistic, but lovable Lotto tries his hand at acting, but his magnetic personality doesn't translate to the stage quite as easily as he'd hoped. Mathilde works at an art gallery to support her husband. But they're young, they have tons of friends, and they're beside themselves with love for each other. What could possibly go wrong?

This story, though, isn't so much about what can wrong in a marriage, as it is about how much you ever really know about and understand the person you know and understand best in the whole world. It's also about secrets, the internal engine and behind-the-scenes support system that makes a marriage work (or not), and, as most good novels are, doing your best to be able to see the world through someone else's eyes, and not slink away from what you see.

As well, throughout, Groff sprinkles allusions to mythology (the title, duh) to set up a tension of the eternal question of what we choose and the paths we take vs. what's been decided for us. Her writing, as you know if you've ever read her before, is exceptional. Her prose sparkles. It's near-perfect — every word has its place; not a word in excess, not a word too few. And the structure she's chose here only highlights her writing: The first half of the novel is told from Lotto's perspective, the second from Mathilde's. This creates such a richer experience with both these characters than a linear narrative could have.

I haven't decided yet whether this is No. 1 on my favorites of 2015 list yet, but it's extremely close. I really, really loved this book — a fantastic reading experience.

Getting this in the mail last week is a highlight of the year.


  1. Critics really seem to be in love with Lauren Groff. But I read Monsters of Templeton after reading a bunch of rave reviews and really didn't care for it at all, found it quite tedious and didn't understand what all the fuss was about. So I'm a little hesitant to read Groff again. Greg, what did you think of Monsters of Templeton? Also looking forward to your thought on City On Fire. I have a copy and will be reading it soon.

    1. I actually haven't read Monsters of Templeton, but I LOVED Arcadia ... and of course Fates and Furies. Give Fates and Furies a try - I've heard it's head and shoulders ahead of MoT.