For Valentine’s Day I want to share with you a book that I love and it just happens to be about love. When the brilliant Lauren Groff opens her novel Fates and Furies, we are introduced to newlyweds Lotto and Mathilde. They are everything – brilliant, young and beautiful. So much in love and with their entire lives in front of them. That, and they have only just met. As the chapters go by we learn about Lotto’s past and watch the couple through the years – yes, they stay together! Groff provides us with what we think is a clear view of their marriage until something happens and we realize that for the twenty some years that have gone by, we’ve only seen things from Lotto’s point of view. What about Mathilde? Who is she really? We realize we don’t know her until Groff gives us the chance with the entire second half of the novel. Now the marriage is different – it doesn’t crumble, they remain in love – but it’s amazing how much we didn’t know before.
I have read reviews saying this book it terrible. Reviews that say it’s a literary Gone Girl because of the secrets revealed through Mathilde’s part of the story. It’s not. Everything Mathilde does is to keep herself and her husband alive. She spends her years with Lotto loving him and taking care of him, but she also has to take care of herself. Also, this book is not a thriller.
One question that could come up when reading this book is whether we need to like the protagonist in order to enjoy a story. I don’t think we do because reading about different people – whether we like them or not – is a way to open our minds, become more empathetic and learn. It’s great to sometimes read out of your comfort zone. That’s why in the past year there has been a big push to read BIGGER with online challenges like this one. I didn’t find this novel uncomfortable, I really did love it and already have Groff’s other novels and short stories piled up at home and ready to attack. I did tell my husband after I finished it that I may not have loved it if I’d read it twenty years ago, when I was in university and perhaps not as open-minded as I am now. And that makes me so happy because that means growth, right?
But this book doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be something you relate to (although there is something for everyone, if not just the beauty of the language and the story that kept me turning pages long after my bedtime). Books open windows, they’re magic. They let us travel in time and place and we’re always okay with that. So to take in something that’s a little different, even if we don’t agree with it, can open our minds. And right now, the world needs bigger minds and stronger hearts.
– Sarah C.