People seem to either love or hate Fates and Furies. It was one of last year’s most popular books, and I saw it on so many best of the year lists. I have to say that I’m on the list of those who love it. It took me a while to finally read the book, it had been in a stack of books to read for a while, and I just finished it. It’s not new anymore, but it was recently released in paperback – and so worth a read! It’s ultimately a story about a marriage, which seems like a frequently visited theme, but it is so much more than that.
Lotto and Matilde marry just as they are graduating college. They meet as students at Vassar College, and surprise everyone by getting married after only a few weeks of dating. As the story goes on, they continue to surprise friends and family by their ongoing commitment to each other. They are deeply in love, and let almost nothing come between them throughout their long marriage (long compared to those in their circle of friends, and for the rest of the city).
The book is divided into two sections, appropriately named, Fates is the first half, Furies is the second. Lotto becomes a playwright, after a failed attempt at acting after college, so the book reads like the first and second half of a play. Their relationship his told through his perspective in Fates, and beginning in the second half the story shift to her.
There is a short story in the beginning of Furies, and at first it’s unclear who the story is about, and how it fits into the broader story. This story completely changes the perspective of the story, revealing a surprising character flaw. There is then almost a dichotomy of the story, a good character and a bad character. Yet, it’s hard to really believe that either character can be completely bad or good.
Lotto’s parents had been very wealthy, but he is disinherited when he marries Matilde. There’s an ongoing struggle between him and his mother. From his perspective, there is sympathy, for this lost and strained relationship with his mother. From Matilde’s perspecrtive (which is told in the second part of the book), she has a role in keeping them apart. It’s this second part of the book that I like the best. Matilde’s hand had been invisible in the first half, but in the retelling of their life together in the second half, she is pivotal in all of his life’s major moments.
Lauren Groff also wrote The Monsters of Templeton, which I read a few years ago and loved. She expertly dissects their relationship here. I was surprised by the second half, and though it felt like she was trying to make the reader dislike one or both of the main characters in this dissection, I really liked it. It comes across almost as marriage advice – what would you do for the one you love? Lotto and Matilde will stop at nothing to stay together, to raise each other up. I doubt I could ever do what they did for each other; despite that, this is still a powerful message.