Fates and Furies has to be one of the most-hyped books of the entire fall publishing lineup, and then almost simultaneously with its release, it was nominated for a National Book Award, to boot. Holy accolades, Batman!
I placed my library hold in June and was first in line. The publicity worked me into such a frenzy that when I had to wait TWO DAYS after the release date before my copy was ready for pickup, I seriously thought Adam was going to have put me in a thundershirt, like they make for nervous dogs. I just kept thinking about all the people who pre-ordered, or wandered into a bookstore and waltzed out with their own copies, reading the book and SMUGLY LOVING IT while I, with my stupid commitment to libraries, found myself at the mercy of the circulation librarian's schedule.
Once I was finally in possession of a lovingly cellophane-wrapped and cataloged copy, my world hopped back on its axis and I wasted no time diving in. And I am delighted to report that the book lives up to the hype.
It's the story of a marriage in two parts, the first half from the husband's perspective and the second half from the wife's. It's a great choice of structure because it allows for a big ol' honkin' mid-book shift, and I use that word deliberately. You will feel tectonic plates moving under your feet as you begin the second half, everything you thought you knew about the characters rising up for reconsideration.
That shift I'm referring to might bring to mind another book from recent years that featured a marriage and a big midstream twist, but don't be hasty with those Gone Girl comparisons. Believe it or not, Gillian Flynn did not invent the plot twist. Authors have been reversing, upending, and outright destroying readers' expectations since time immemorial. (Exhibit A: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, which I wrote about just last week, contains an about-face so shocking you'll drop your tea in your lap at almost exactly the halfway point, and it was published a good ten years before GG.)
Here's why the comparison rankles: Gone Girl is a solid thriller, an engaging ride while you're in it, but it doesn't leave you with much to chew on (other than “Those people are so effed up!”). Fates and Furies has larger aspirations, and Lauren Groff delivers. It isn't the kind of book you read for the adrenaline rush and then put aside. Its characters and their choices dig into your brain and stay there.
Highly recommended—and if you're just now placing your hold at the library, well, I'm sure it'll make great Christmas break reading.