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Posts Tagged ‘The Fates Will Find Their Way’

I know, I know. “Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we’.”  So said Mark Twain.

We beg to differ, although we are quite fond of Twain, who also said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after tomorrow.”  Still, reviewers, myself included, sometimes have been known to use the editorial or royal we because we get tired of saying “I” or “you” or “the reader.”  “We” sounds more more inclusive and intimate.

Fiction writers know this as well, but the collective plural voice is a tricky thing to pull off, especially over the length of a novel if it’s meant to be more than an attention-getting conceit. Happily, two first-time novelists use “we” to tell their quite different tales in captivating fashion.

Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, aka Rose, Bean and Cordy, are the daughters of a reknowned Shakespearean scholar and thus the title characters of The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. Despite their names, their ever-ready-with a-quote dad, and that they grew up speaking iambic pentameter, the sisters are not weird, “especially now that ‘weird’  has evolved from its delicious meaning of supernatural strangeness into something depressingly critical and pedestrian.” But they do note that Shakespeare originally meant “wyrd,” as in fate. “And we might argue that we are not fated to do anything, that we have chosen everything in our lives, that there is no such thing as destiny. And we would be lying.”

So not weird at at all. Fate has made them sisters in a certain birth order but not best friends. “See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.”

When their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, the three grown sisters all decide to help, returning to their parents’ house in an Ohio college town home without telling one another, and each bringing considerable baggage. Rose, a college math professor whose fiance is in England on sabbatical, never really has left home, certain that all will fall apart in her absence. Bean is escaping from her pseudo-glam New York City life, having just been fired. Free-spirited Cordy wanders in, pregnant and without plans or any sure idea of who the baby’s father is. Thus the stage is set for toil and trouble even as the story bubbles somewhat lightly, even merrily along.

The Weird Sisters rises above its sibling novels of domestic drama because Brown has a way with words — her own and Shakespeare’s — and the plural voice works harmoniously as the sisters discover that not all of life’s problems can be solved with a library card. Perhaps there’s some wisdom (and comeuppance) in “to thine ownself be true.” 

Now, let us turn from Shakespeare to Virgil, whose word give Hannah Pittard’s debut its enticing title, The Fates Will Find Their Way.

So many missing girl books — but this one is different. Told collectively by a group of teenage boys, it explores their obsession with a classmate who disappears. The first chapter is a great story in itself; the next chapters speculate and explore the possibilities and probabilities of different scenarios as to Nora Lindell’s fate, while further expanding on strands from the first chapter.

 And what of Nora’s younger sister, Sissy, who also captures the boys’ attention and imagination ? What secrets does she know? One is the fact that she saw her sister late on the Halloween night she disappeared, much later than anyone else.

As the boys grow into men and marry, their inner lives still are defined by the vanished girl and the stories they tell themselves.

“Would she really have provided us of anything our wives haven’t? Perhaps. Yes, perhaps. But that night, after the Prices’ last pool party of the summer, everything felt wonderful; we were whole, complete, content. We had drunk like fish, tanned like hides, and now we were ready to sleep like kings.”

Mmm. To sleep, perchance to dream?  The first-person plural recalls Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, but Pittard’s meditative story floats on its own, memorable and haunting.

Open Books: I received advance readers’ editions from the publishers of both The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (Amy Einhorn/Putnam) and The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard (Ecco/HarperCollins). My thanks.

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