Friday, January 28, 2011

THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY by Hannah Pittard (2011) Ecco

Told in the bewildered third person plural, THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY contemplates the disappearance of 16-year-old Nora Lindell one Halloween, from the perspective of the teenaged boys in her life, not only at the time of Nora's likely abduction, but also later in their lives as young married men with children of their own. Their collective guilt at not being able to find Nora and keep her safe leads to magical thinking about the life she may well have found without them.

Because the imagined reality of Nora's abduction and subsequent torture is too painful to conceive, the boys spin an alternative life for her where she is pregnant with twin girls and waiting tables at a restaurant in Arizona. There she's hired without any previous experience because she tells the manager "I'm a blank slate. Teach me and I'll do exactly what you say." Nora falls for the old Mexican cook, a man so unlike the boys in his tenderness and desire to care for Nora and her babies.

The boys keep secrets, or at least try to, as they grow up with Nora's absence a haunting presence in their lives. Like the time Danny Hatchet accidentally killed the Wilsons' lab or the creepy shenanigans of the Junior year boys in the balcony at the film night that especially traumatized a group of girls. They also confide in each other about terrible truths including a mom's suicide and an adult friend's Lolita-fueled fantasy about one of their own daughters.

We ride side by side with these boys from their confusing Senior year in High School to the cusp of their 45th birthdays and attend the funerals of parents and classmates along the way. All the while we wonder, like them, if Nora could have possibly found an alternative life blossoming with love, even though the cold hard facts reveal a life snuffed out at its height of promise.

THE FATES WILL FIND THEIR WAY will remind you of your own adolescence in its heady confusion and equal dreaminess: a shared belief in the possibility of a fantastic future that will be realized in spite of any obstacles that may come your way. Through Pittard's masterful narrative I am haunted by a disappearance from my own childhood in the 1970s. Sally Ann Hanson, a country schoolgirl, disappeared when I was in Grade 4. Other than the imagined terror of her fate befalling any one of my classmates, I never considered a future for her. Until now.

This book has traction. I think it's going to be 2011's ROOM.


Lynne Perednia said...

Thanks for the review. This book sounds absolutely fascinating and is near the top of my own to-read stacks.

We had some odd disappearances while I was growing up too. I bet I dream of those girls tonight.

Janet said...

It's unsettling to have those memories of disappearance triggered. I haven't thought about Sally Ann Hanson in 35 years.