Love, Lies, & Luck: A Recipe for Marriage

Lauren Groff is clearly an expert short story writer. But is she also a great novelist?

Fates and Furies is divided in two halves: “Fates” and “Furies.” “Fates” follows Lotto (short for Lancelot), a dynamic playwright whose personality is closer to Casanova than Arthurian knight. He is charismatic, handsome but not perfectly handsome (rather, “[h]is bad skin, his big forehead, the slightly bulbous nose, moderated what was an almost girlishly pretty face into something sexy), and, against everyone’s expectations to the contrary, profoundly loyal to his wife, Mathilde.

Most interestingly, the theme of Mathilde’s narrative is narration itself. What is agency? Who is deserving of the title “author”? Are any of us really the architects of our own lives?

Lotto’s half of the novel is pleasant. It moves fluidly, a bit like a stylized version of John Irving’s prose. The plot is not the point — the immersion is. Lotto’s life is big and atmospheric and Groff constructs a narrative arc that readers can luxuriate in. Simply put, it works; it’s enjoyable but not remarkable. “Furies,” on the other hand, is gripping. Mathilde’s life is riddled with abandonment and despair, degradation and manipulation, and, for the first time, the plot is the point — it’s a rewrite of everything that came before it. “Furies” is thrilling, but again, not remarkable.

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Wynter K Miller

Wynter K Miller

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Wynter K Miller is an editor and writer in California. @wynterkm