The selection of this book follows a rather predictable narrative in my life: I buy a bestselling book, put on my shelf because I’m in the middle of about five other books, and read the new one a year later. I purchased FATES AND FURIES not long after its National Book Award nomination and finally got around to reading it.
FATES AND FURIES tells the tale of Lotto and Mathilde, who appear to be madly in love, but harbor numerous, destructive secrets. Split into two sections told from each character’s persepctive, Lauren Groff slowly peels back the layers of marriage to reveal humanity and truth. I thought about this book when I wasn’t reading it and consumed it whenever I had the time.
I was floored by Groff’s writing from the very first pages:
“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces, barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat no chilling. Even still, a third person, their marriage, had slid in.”
As the novel progressed, I became just entranced by her plot. After 206 pages, at the end of Lotto’s section, Fates, I had formed a firm opinion on Mathilde. Groff shattered this just a few pages in to Mathilde’s Furies. Mathilde tells the story between the lines of Lotto’s tale. Once the book closes, one sees the story of a marriage between two very human and very flawed people.
So often, marriages are portrayed as perfect or ending in a murderous rage or violent deception, a la GONE GIRL. Groff’s story is honest and it’s that honesty that remains with me after the finishing book. Everyone has secrets that we keep from those we love. We hurt without meaning to, we yearn for something different, we protect as best we can. We fail over and over and over again.
This is what makes FATES AND FURIES a love story. No one character holds all the blame. No one is judged. It’s a love story in its truest form—one with pain, lies, betrayal, and love. Meg Wolitzer wrote in a reivew that Groff’s “ideas about the way in which two people can live together and live inside each other or fall away from each other, or betray each other, feel foundationally sound and true.” I can’t help but agree.
This is a book to return to in order to never forget that at root of us all—no matter how attractive, or talented, or intelligent we may be—we are deeply and imperfectly human.