Friday, July 22, 2011

The Fates Will Find Their Way - Hannah Pittard

From the age of 18 until about 40, I tried to forget I ever went to high school.  The angst, the acne, the boyfriends, the catty jealous girls.  It was all so embarrassing.  But as I get older, I have a different perspective, one that is wiser, more understanding and good humored.  When I get together with my high school friends, particularly three of my girlfriends, we share memories as if we were a single unit.  Our reunions are one big group-think. Between us we have a big pile of memories, and we constantly add to it.  There is an unspoken understanding that "we" were there, "we" experienced it, and "we" don't judge.    

Why is this relevant to "The Fates Will Find Their Way"?  Because it is this type of solidarity that I found in this book, much to my surprise.  It was not what I was expecting.  I was expecting a story about a missing girl, but found so much more.

Synopsis: 16 year-old Nora Lindell disappeared from the face of the earth one Halloween night.  In her wake, she leaves a group of tight-knit classmates, family members and parents that were forever altered.  Narrated by the boys in her class in a collective first-person prose ("we" versus "me"), we learn about each of the personalities in the mix.  The hot Russian mom.  The girl who was everyone's sweetheart, who was raped.  Nora's little sister who tried to fill her big sister's shoes.  The strange boy with a bad family life who always had a supply of pot.  The constant presence of "mom-logic".  All from the perspective of a singular living, breathing mass of testosterone. 

So the story isn't really about Nora's disappearance so much as it is about the process of growing up under the dark cloud of knowing someone who may or may not have died.  Nora becomes a symbol of hope for the kids left behind.  They fantasize what may have happened to her, spinning a tale so believable, they begin to think it must be so.  One classmate thinks he sees her at the airport in Phoenix.  Another thinks he sees her on TV amidst the Mumbai bombings.  Her legend lives in their hearts. 

"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; who had the chance to become something not completely inevitable.  Maybe."

There is also a bittersweet reflection back on the frivolities of youth, and the responsibilities of adulthood.  And the fear for our children, knowing what we know:

"And it's at times like these when we cannot help but shudder at the things adults are capable of.  Why didn't we know better then?  And what things are happening already that our own children don't know better about now?  We cannot help looking at those wiggly, giggling girls splashing about in the pool just in front of us, their skin tanning, bordering on burning, and wonder what's taking place in their lives - in their strange and alien brains-that they're already keeping from us.  What, right now, is taking place that we should be stopping but that we can't even see?"
There was poignancy about growing old:
"We thought about how little had happened in our lives, but how quickly the little that had happened had actually gone by.  It was hard not to be angry with our bodies, with our aging.  It was hard to believe that we'd actually gotten this far and not figured out a way to stop it, to pause life, to enjoy it.  Hadn't our own fathers been counting on just that-on our ability to outlast what they couldn't?"
My thoughts:  I thought this story - the unique way it revealed the tale of a lost girl and a group of classmates growing up - was brilliant.  These are not new plot lines by any stretch of the imagination.  We've seen them hundreds of times.  But any time a story can be told in a new way, my brain buzzes with happiness. 

I immediately GOT this book.  The ornery hormonal behavior of teenage boys (and girls), the unified hopes and dreams of a close group of friends, the process of growing older with these youthful and immature memories still rattling around in your head.  We've all been there.  Never have it seen so beautifully and cleverly expressed. 

I thought that the complicated fantasies of Nora's life were precious.  Trapped in lives that were inevitable, they refused to allow Nora to live a predictable life.  She was carefree and mysterious, and everything they weren't.  They left you wanting to believe this was her life story, versus the alternative.  You understood why they tried to see her in a sea of anonymous faces at the airport or on TV. 

The cherry on top of it all is that this is a lightning-fast read...only 256 pages of easy-flowing, conversational and clever prose.  It seems reviewers are hot and cold on this one, but in my camp, it will be one of the favorites of the year.

5 out of 5 stars

20 comments:

Nymeth said...

Wow - you more than convinced me. This is going straight to the wishlist. Priority ranting: "high". Something about your description reminds me of The Virgin Suicides, which is one of my favourite books ever.

Molly said...

This title is unfamiliar to me - but you have convinced me that it is a book that I need to read. On the TBR list it goes :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ack, as Nymeth, must read this right away!

farmlanebooks said...

People seem divided on this one and I have been unable to decide which side of the fence I'll fall. I have a love-hate relationship with books about teenagers, but I think you've just persuaded me to give it a try. I'm pleased you enjoyed it so much.

Zibilee said...

This is one that I am excited about, and since you lent me the book, I can pick it up sometime over one of these long summer days. I agree that a lot of reviewers were just ho-hum about it, but I think I'd rather make my own opinions on it. Great review, and glad that you liked it so much!

caite said...

I think I am WAY beyond identifying with teenagers.
in fact, I was when I WAS a teenager..which was a whole other issue.

bermudaonion said...

I read somewhere that there are only a few plots, so I think it's probably difficult to come up with a fresh story. This sounds so good!

Darlene said...

Great review Sandy! I've been on the fence with this one. My finger has come close to hitting the buy button many times but something holds me back. I may have to rethink and pick it up. Glad you loved it!

Melissa said...

Since my reading time is limited to Claire's 1 hour nap, I'm all for short, easy-flowing books. I've never heard of this one before, but I'm checking my library now.

heidenkind said...

I think I'm still in the trying-to-forget-high-school-ever-happened phase. :P

Beth F said...

This is the second review I read today about remembering our teen years. I've been curious about FATES and now you've convinced me it's worth reading.

JoAnn said...

Adding to my wishlist right now...

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

So funny that I had such an opposite reaction to this one. Different strokes for different folks. :) I think the fact that I listened to it as opposed to reading in print made a difference... it just didn't work for me.

Jenny said...

I real Iike the way you describe this book and how you related to it. I'm thinking I will like this book and hope I'm able to get the same thing from it that you did! The topic sounds interesting and thoughtful to me.

Gavin said...

Putting it on hold at the library. Of course there are holds in front of me:)

Irene said...

Requesting it from our library. Thanks for the suggestion. Great Review.

Literate Housewife said...

So glad you enjoyed this one, too! We're like literary twins or something. :)

Anna said...

You've made this one sound really good! And I don't like to read about or even think about high school much either.

Ti said...

This one is on my summer reading list, but I haven't started it yet. I better if I plan to read it before summer ends!

Kathleen said...

I'm convinced to read this one. You've never steered me wrong before!