Sunday, December 24, 2017

Fates and Furies by Lauren Grofft

It was mathematical, marriage. Not, as one might expect, additional. It was exponential.
Fates and Furies is blurbed as a book about a marriage, and on the surface it is. Mathilde and Lotto are married at 23 in the opening pages, and the work of their relationship takes up the bulk of the novel. That being said, it is also a book about perspective (although perhaps any good book about marriage is inherently also a book about perspective). Lotto's side comes first: his childhood, his career, his side of their partnership. Mathilde's--far more interesting--takes up the second half of the novel.

Lotto is an actor and a playwright, and scattered throughout both sections of the novel are parenthetical asides; the audience is acknowledged and addressed directly. These asides break the flow of the narrative and take you out of the story, sometimes for a sentence sometimes for an entire paragraph, but they drive home the idea that this is a book about perspective and they acknowledge that you, the reader, are partaking in the story along with the characters. One of my favorite of these asides comes as Mathilde and Lotto are struggling through a particularly chaotic family holiday, one filled with tears and accusations and surfaced bitternesses. As the evening winds down, Groff pulls us out of their basement apartment to this:
A stranger hurrying as fast as he could over the icy sidewalks looked in. He was a circle of singing people bathed in the clean white light from a tree, and his heart did a somersault, and the image stayed with him; it merged with him even as he came home to his own children, who were already sleeping in their beds, to his wife crossly putting together the tricycle without the screwdriver that he'd run out to borrow. It remained long after his children ripped open their gifts and abandoned their toys in puddles of paper and grew too old for them and left their house and parents and childhoods, so that he and his wife gaped at each other in bewilderment as to how it had happened so terribly swiftly. All those years, the singers in the soft light in the basement apartment crystalized in his mind, became the very idea of what happiness should look like. 
Groff does some of her best, most sweeping writing in these moments. She condenses time and space and perspective in just a few sentences, and it makes a nice break from the pacing of the rest of the novel.

It's hard to write a full review of this book without spoilers, but I think it's worth a try. In some ways, the novel feels complete at the end of Lotto's section, and Mathilde's retelling feels like it could be a totally separate piece. That being said, her perspective reshapes and reforms the entire story in unexpected ways that make the novel far more engaging and worthwhile. It gets darker, more layered, and far more imaginative with her version laid over his.

Overall, this was a fun read. It wasn't hugely literary, but it was suspenseful and the characters, while not entirely likeable, were engaging. I rarely say this, but this would be a good book to read on an e-reader. I read it in paper form, and when things really started getting crazy, I wanted to be able to reach back and find specific moments and characters. Doing that on an e-reader would have been much easier, and I think there are a few things I missed by just flipping back and forth.


Brent Waggoner said...

Really enjoyed these last couple reviews. And it's funny you say that about e-readers. I d about half my books on them and I find them harder for flipping around in.

Chloe Pinkerton said...

I generally far prefer reading actual books, but I wanted to search for particular names in this one (things I knew I had seen before but couldn't quite place where), and that's harder to do with just your eyeballs!