Sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell is gone. She went missing on a suburban Halloween night and, like the boys in Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, Nora’s male classmates become obsessed with her disappearance. The Fates Will Find Their Way is told in their collective voice, adding an extra layer of nostalgia to a story about remembering the past. It alternates between the boys’ thoughts about their own adolescence and their speculation about what happened to Nora. In her transformation into a myth, she becomes more important for the boys than her real life ever could have been. As in any fantasy, Nora’s life doesn’t include the mundane moments, and the boys become irrationally jealous of something that doesn’t even exist.
The best moments in The Fates arrive when Pittard’s strong prose offers astute insights. “We’d all grown up with swimming pools. And we’d grown up with Nora Lindell,” the boys say. In that simple juxtaposition, we feel the pain of growing up, of realizing that everything once taken for granted can disappear. Conversely, Pittard’s faults — the faults of a young writer — show up when she doesn’t trust the reader. In over-emphasizing important details, she is often too controlling. With too many questions from the narrators, readers don’t have the pleasure of developing their own.
Pittard’s most depressing and haunting insights develop as the boys enter adulthood. They lament how sometimes “life was nothing more than a tally of the people who’d left us behind.” By the end, the novel becomes a criticism of the pre-determined nature of suburban American life. Nora is the one who escaped, and whether she was dead at 16 or is living now in a foreign country, the boys will continue their endless string of pool parties and summer barbecues. “We thought about how little had happened in our lives,” the boys lament, “but how quickly the little that had happened had actually gone by.” Pittard regards life, apparently, as a general descent into loneliness, and in The Fates, characters and fantasies fade away until only adulthood remains.