Nobody knows where, exactly, Nora Lindell disappeared to, but the boys from her high school know one thing for sure: She’s not coming back.
The first pages of Hannah Pittard’s exquisite debut novel lay out all of the clues at their disposal. She went missing on Halloween—that much they agree on. But every other memory conflicts with someone else’s, with each boy absolutely positive that his is the correct version. A bus station is mentioned. Then an abortion clinic. Hot dogs. Movie theatres. Pay phones. Two of the boys swear they saw her climb into a stranger’s Pontiac Catalina. Another, feeling excluded, claims to have had sex with Nora the month before.
Before long, the departed 16-year-old has become a cipher, a repository for all of the boys’ repressed desires, feelings and fears. Not so much the sexual ones—they’re pretty upfront about their constantly redlining hormones—as those that run deeper, more elemental. Nora becomes a stand-in for everything that never was, but maybe could have been, had things worked out a little differently.
The Fates Will Find Their Way is narrated by all of the boys at once, in the first-person plural, so the reader is never quite able to ascribe these feelings to any one in particular. Then again, there’s no need to. Because while their specific circumstances may vary, these kids never grow out of the fundamental group mentality that Nora’s disappearance creates; even well into adulthood (and marriage and fatherhood, for that matter) they still get together, late at night, and try in vain to turn their handful of battered jigsaw pieces into a complete puzzle.
Put another way, it’s a book about the particular eerie stillness of the suburbs—where you talk, and talk, and talk, just to fill the space.