by Hannah Pittard
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.