Why Lauren Groff's book 'Fates and Furies' is being called this year's 'Gone Girl'
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff’s excellent novel that comes out today, doesn’t waste time. In the first chapter, we’re introduced to Mathilde and Lotto, 22- year-olds and recent college grads who have just eloped and snuck into roommate’s summer beach house to spend their honeymoon. Lotto is a tall, gregarious aspiring actor whose privileged upbringing shields him from real-life responsibilities like bills and booking flights; and he calls his mother “Muvva.” But. He can recite an entire Shakespeare play by heart. While Mathilde is his seemingly saintly wife —she’s beautiful, smart, and supports Lotto as his acting career wilts like a terrible flower. As far as Lotto knows, her past is a blank slate before she met him.
The two humans beautifully struggle in ’90s Manhattan, making ends meet by borrowing money from Lotto’s kid sister, and relying on hosting potlucks to eat. But then one night, everything changes. Lotto writes a script in the middle of the night, and it somehow sells for an exorbitant amount of money. Suddenly, Lotto is a famous playwright. Mathilde, his manager. Their relationship unravels and unravels and unravels, becomes darker and then lighter again, ugly and then beautiful — a glittering ebb and flow they’re unsure how to live with. Their lives are possibly propelled by magic —or something else entirely.
Everything we know about Mathilde and Lotto starts making more sense by the time we reach the end of Part One. Creating two very different stories in Fates and Furies, the novel is split into two sections. “Fates” is largely told from Lotto’s perspective, while “Furies” takes on Mathilde’s side of the story. Lauren Groff’s point? To prove there’s always two sides to everything, especially relationships. For a union so perfectly melded, so propelled by energy and love and ambition, so deflective of jealousy, it sure has a lot of secrets.
Unlike Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, there’s no homicide or mind games in Fates and Furies. But like Gone Girl, Groff’s tale of two lovers isn’t what it seems. It’s twisted and neurotic and addictive. You will think you understand characters, that you’ve figured out what drives them. You will be wrong. The same scene will told by the two protagonists —and you’ll realize you’ve totally been fooled by perception and maybe an unreliable narrator. You’ll flip back and forth between “Fates” and “Furies” and reread the same scene told by two different people, and it will leave you in awe.
And “awe” is what best summarizes what you’ll feel after reading Fates and Furies. Its language, though sometimes over-the-top and melodramatic, is something you’ll want to soak up slowly. And Groff’s modernization of the Greek tragedy is what makes this double-sided portrait of marriage so achingly good and enchantingly complex. Before summer is officially over, you’ll want to take this novel and read it by an already chilled pool.
(Image via author)