© 2021 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Book Review

'Fates and Furies' Is an Astounding Portrait of Marriage


Lauren Groff's audacious novel, Fates and Furies, is an astounding portrait of a marriage. Amazing sentences build seductive paragraphs that breathe life into every providential scene.

Nodding to Greek tragedy, Groff pulls back the curtain in the opening paragraph as Lawrence "Lotto" Satterwaite and Mathilde Yoder emerge from the water and consummate their marriage on the beach. As fate would have it, Lotto, born into privilege, is charming, promiscuous and desired, destined for a life in theatre. Mathilde appears complicit, supportive of Lotto’s role as an archetypical great American male artist. She provides the security of a comfortable home and throws fabulous parties riddled with debauchery and booze.

The marriage works for Lotto as he floats through his days and nights pursuing the next best artistic endeavor, even as his previous roles in plays, or playwriting, or a proposed production, never quite make it off the ground. Even so, life is good: he is buoyed by his beloved wife and the presence and indulgence of close friends.

Mathilde's fury begins at an early age and she flees her French family after a tragic incident in which she may be implicated. Orphaned and cast out by distant relatives, she cunningly rids herself of her dreadful past in which Dickensian tragedy befalls more tragedy. Then she marries Lotto. The denouement of her tempestuous version of the marriage rages through the second half of the novel. Mathilde's ability to survive against the odds in her youth informs her ability to endure the fiction of her husband's charmed existence.

Lauren Groff's brilliant and unprecedented inquiry into the institution of marriage is as entertaining as it is genius.