The Fates Will Find Their Way: A Novel by Hannah Pittard (New York: Ecco Publishing, 2011. 256 pp)


Hannah Pittard’s fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, the Oxford American, the Mississippi Review, BOMB, Nimrod, and StoryQuarterly, and was included in 2008 Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories. She is the recipient of the 2006 Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award and has taught fiction at the University of DePaul and the University of Virginia, where she was also a Henry Hoyns Fellow.

Telephone!

It begins as early as preschool with children congregating in a circle. The teacher kneels and whispers information to a girl urging her to motion it onward to her neighbor’s ear. As the children intake, comprehend, and transfer information, the meaning quickly loses significance. Upon revealing the information at the final child, the group chuckles at the distance between the final conclusions and the teacher’s original message. The game of telephone teaches us the ease by which information disintegrates.
Beginning with a group of parents activating the telephone chain, Hannah Pittard introduces her novel, The Fates Will Find Their Waywith a clear reference to the misinformation of gossip.

The Void of Life

Set in an unspecified suburb, The Fates Will Find Their Waydepicts a group of male friends and the lives they lead in the wake of the disappearance of Nora Lindell, a fellow classmate. With time providing the chill of the cold case files, the group of boys must fill in the blanks in their collective psyche.
Did Nora jump in a stranger’s car never to be seen again like the awful scenarios exhibited often in the movies? Pondering the scenario, the boys think,

“They drove away together. It was an adventure, perhaps. But the experience that Nora had no doubt hoped would be intriguing turned quickly into something more menacing than mysterious. Almost immediately after she got in, she probably wanted to get out. It’s the stuff of fantasies, not of real life. In fantasies, you can get into strangers’ cars” (15).

Maybe Nora’s bones are buried in river sediment two counties down.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Did Nora run away buying a plane ticket to a warm location? As the boys grow up and get married, they still meet and discuss the possibilities,

“We liked to imagine that she’d picked Arizona for the Grand Canyon and the warmth. Maybe she’d though it was possible to live in it, in the canyon. But she never admitted that to anyone, not once she got there and saw how wrong her fantasy had been” (69).

As the group of boys transitions to men with wives, children, and real jobs, the obsession with the disappearance of a teenage girl shifts into slightly creepy territory.

“Like our mothers, our wives were troubled by our refusal to let Nora Lindell go. They thought, perhaps rightly, that it was an indulgence from which only jealousy and regret could come” (191).

The Fates Got Lost on the Way

Photo by Grant Hutchinson

In all honesty, that’s about it for a plot. Pittard metaphorically links the lives of these boys to the fates of Greek mythology suggesting that this collective desired to control the lives and deaths of those surrounding them.

Even though she mentions specific names of these boys, no protagonist steps forward. In turn, the reader is left with understanding the boys as the protagonist. Sadly, this step left me indifferent to the plight of these characters. Without much connection to any of them, let alone a clear link to why they valued Nora, the narrative frustrated me.
This realization, coupled with the suspension of belief around boys and gossip, left me unimpressed with this novel.
In the end, I found The Fates Will Find Their Way a quick read about gossip and what it means when a group transforms an unexplained event into a fantastical life story. Artistically, I understand where Pittard is going with the novel, but I didn’t enjoy it. Yes, humanity tends to mold information into an understandable box in our mind. No, I do not recommend this book.

Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars

Posted by: Donovan Richards

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