There are two sides to every coin, behind each person there are thoughts we can never truly know. For every marriage, every partnership, two very separate individuals.
Divided into two sections, "Fates and Furies," Lauren Groff's new novel, is a story about a marriage. Not just any marriage, but just one. "Fates," centers on the husband, Lancelot "Lotto" Satterwhite, who beams with good will and good faith, but also a bit of a narcissist. "Furies," tells Mathilde Yoder's side of the story, the quiet, plain wife who operates behind the scenes.
In this split narrative, as the title of the novel suggests, begins with "Fates," a bright, more optimistic tone from the husband's point of view. While Lotto has his struggles, in the end he still has faith in his marriage. In the opening lines of the section, "For now, he's the one we can't look away from. He is the shining one."
Lotto, was perceived as golden from the moment of his birth. A Beautiful, charismatic aspiring actor and able to see something appealing in even the most unattractive women. He meets Mathilde, a woman who is as comfortable in the shadows as he is in the spotlight with a past surrounded in loneliness. Throughout the novel's progression we gradually gather how standing behind her husband's failed attempts of becoming an actor and his successes as a playwright, has affected her very own life.
"She rubbed lotion on her hands, one, the other, looking at him in the mirror, and said, 'My loneliness. Not yours. You've always had friends. It's not that you stole my story, it's that you stole my friend.' And she laughed at herself, but when he came into bed, her light was out, and she was on her side, and though he put his hand on her hip…and whispered, 'What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours,' she was already sleeping or, worse, she was pretending to be asleep."
"Furies," a darker voice, a voice of rage, comes from Mathilde's version of Lotto, following his. We see that she is an even better actor than he, never defined by popularity or a by a sense to fulfill her destiny. Behind Lotto's struggles, we see the lengths she goes to in order to provide for the two of them. Mathilde's version is crueler, rougher, and her furies quietly stew beneath the surface. She is the woman behind the man.
Lotto's version goes first, as it should, because in order to understand her, you have to understand him. The way he perceives their marriage is one that many would consider to be the outsider's point of view.
Through stunning sentences and exquisite language, Groff writes provides all angles of Lotto and Mathilde. The marriage itself follows a predictable path through the rollercoaster of all marriages, each having its own struggles. What's stunning about "Fates and Furies" is that Groff takes the reader through both sides, perhaps a 360-degree view of their entire marriage. Lotto with his general shaping of the their story, and Mathilde to fill in the blanks.
In the beginning of the book, Lotto's drama teacher asks for the difference between comedy and drama. He says there is no difference. "It's a question of perspective. …It simply depends on how you frame what you're seeing."
Groff proves just that. In the end, it becomes a decision of which version of the story we choose to believe.
Fates and Furies
By Lauren Groff
390 pp. Riverbed Books $27.95