I read The Fates Will Find Their Way because at least three people insisted I should. One went so far as to say it was the best book he’s read all year. Quite a bit of pressure for such a small book, eh? My verdict: I love it, and I urge you to read it as well. Fates is a beautiful, beautifully written book. Set aside a few hours (it’s a short book), make yourself a cup of hot cocoa, curl up with a blanket and lose yourself in Pittard’s writing.
Fates begins, “Some things were certain; they were undeniable, inarguable. Nora Lindell was gone, for one thing. …For another, it was Halloween when she went missing, which only served to compound the eeriness, the mysteriousness of her disappearance.” Nora was sixteen when she disappeared, and the unnamed narrators (the boys in Nora’s hometown, identified by the collective “we”) inform us, the phone tree system spread the word. “By the time the tree had been completed, many mothers had already gotten word of Nora’s disappearance—either from us…or from Mr. Lindell himself, who’d broken phone-tree etiquette and continued making calls… It was a breach in etiquette that our mothers forgave, obviously.” The latter passage, I think, sets the tone for the rest of the book. Pittard’s writing is subtle and wry, managing to treat such a tragedy as a young girl’s disappearance with both respect and light, at times self-deprecating humour.
Still, as the narrators say later on, “But forget about Nora for now. That’s the point.” Fates is not about the mystery of Nora’s disappearance. We do not get to see detectives scrounge for clues. In fact, when a reporter comes into town years later to investigate the case, the narrators balk at the idea: “It felt like something that was ours alone, and always had been, was slowly slipping away… Who was this Gail Cumming to think she could barge in out of nowhere?” Key words: ours alone. Fates is about the neighbourhood boys, and how Nora’s disappearance has impacted their lives. Fates is about childhood, about memories and the mythologies built around them, and about how much we try to hold on to these as we, inescapably, grow up.
Pittard traipses back and forth in time, often within the same scene: “At the time it never made sense to us – Trey Stephens’ insistence that he didn’t find Mrs. Dinnerman sexy – but looking back on it, we begin to understand.” The narration is wonderfully fluid, at times, making us ache with nostalgia for the innocence of the narrators’ past, because it is so coloured by the knowledge of their adult present.
Despite the narrators’ insistence that “the point” isn’t about Nora, they are obsessed with her story. What happened to Nora Lindell? Was she abducted by a Humbert Humbert in a Catalina? Did she fly toArizonaand have children of her own? Pittard grounds these conjectures in fact, however flimsy. Two of the boys thought they saw Nora get into a Catalina the day she disappeared. A flight attendant saw a girl who looked like Nora on a plane toArizona. How much can we trust these stories? Does their accuracy even matter?
Take a childhood friend whom you haven’t seen in years. What do you think he or she is doing now? Now, think: how much does this fantasy you’ve built for your friend say about you, and about your fantasies/dreams/wishes for yourself?
Nora Lindell is gone. Like phone trees and curfews and furtive drags of pot behind the school, the reality of Nora Lindell is in the past. Her mythology however is very open to interpretation, and her storyline, as constructed by the neighbourhood boys, reveals much about these boys as they grow up. The idea of Nora falling victim to a Humbert Humbert comes with both the present-day narration of one of the men having been arrested for having sex with an underage girl, and the childhood memory of a female classmate who had been raped. The idea of Nora starting a family of her own inArizonais interspersed with scenes of the boys themselves growing up and struggling to accept their new roles as adults. And, as we read their stories, we too remember our childhoods, and understand, along with the narrators and along with their fictional Nora, just how much we’ve changed since then.
Fates is a soft, haunting narrative of growing up. Read it. Savour it. And I hope you end up loving it as much as I did.