By Lauren Groff
Lotto Satterwhite and Mathile Yoder have a marriage so unlikely their friends make bets about how quickly it will fail.
Lotto is “loud and full of light”; Mathilde is “quiet, watchful.” In the first two weeks of their relationship, Lotto sees Matilde as transparent, a plate of glass that “he could see through to the goodness at her quick.” She is, in fact, opaque, hiding a secret so terrible her own parents rejected her.
At the lowest moment of Lotto’s life, she cashes in every favor she has to turn his kernel of talent into what becomes a lifetime of success as a playwright. He sees in her goodness that she has not dared believe was part of her.
At one point, early in their marriage, friends ask Lotto and Matilde what marriage is like. He replies, “A never-ending banquet, and you eat and eat and never get full.” She adds, “Kipling called it a very long conversation.”
Both are apt for this portrait of a 24-year marriage. The book, which begins the day that Lotto and Matilde get married is written in two parts. The first, Fates, focuses on the charismatic Lotto’s charmed life as the first-born son of a wealthy Florida family, doted on by his possessively protective mother, loving Aunt Sallie and adoring younger sister Rachel.
The second, Furies, begins with Lotto’s death, when he and Matilde were both 42, and at the peak of a golden life. His death ignites rage in Matilde – rage that he could have left her, rage about emptiness of life without him, rage at the people who had hurt, insulted and rejected her in the past.
“Mathilde was not unfamiliar with grief. That old wolf had come sniffing around her house before.” But this time, she had the resources to fulfill her craving for revenge.
This is not a Hallmark, “she saw things this way; he saw things that way” novel. It is about a complex relationship between complex people. It has moments simultaneously comic and tragic, poignancy that takes your breath away and Matilde’s cathartic rage, worthy of the classic Greek tragedies.
If this book sounds interesting, you might also want to check out FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE.
The Author: Lauren Groff (1978- )
President Barack Obama selected FATES AND FURIES as his favorite book of 2015. It was nominated for the 2015 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Groff’s first novel, THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON, debuted on the New York Timesbestseller list in 2008. It won accolade after accolade: it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers and named one of the Best Books of 2008 by Amazon.com and the San Francisco Chronicle. The story takes place in a fictionalized version of Cooperstown where Groff was born and raised. It features a blending of voice drawn from the town’s history as well as James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, THE PIONEERS, which is also set in a fictionalized Cooperstown that he also calls Templeton.
Her second, ARCADIA, released in 2012 was favorably review by the New York Times Sunday Book Review, The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. It was named one of the Best Books of 2012 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, Vogue, The Globe and Mail, Christian Science Monitor and Kirkus Reviews. This book tells the story of the first child born in a fictional 1960s commune in upstate New York.