Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What We're Reading: Story of a Marriage

Lauren Groff's novel Fates and Furies was published in September of this year to much critical acclaim, and was quickly short-listed for the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize. I snagged an advance reader copy right before its publication, without even realizing that this is the same author whose short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds, I read and enjoyed immensely almost a year ago.

The story starts with the childhood of Lancelot "Lotto" Satterwhite, the son of a Florida self-made man and a New Hampshire transplant seeking her fortune. Lotto's childhood is full of love and comfort, until his father passes away. A trouble-making episode causes Lotto's grieving mother to ship him away to boarding school, where a tragic event pushes Lotto deeper into his misery, until he meets Mathilde, a love at first sight that ends in marriage two weeks later. Having found his calling in theater in high school, Lotto soon finds himself unable to find a job, and although barely making ends meet, Lotto and Mathilde thrive in their love for each other and the close-knit circle of friends they share.

Years later, the couple are in middle age and much better off financially. The story shifts its focus to Mathilde, going back into her childhood and the story of their marriage. This is where the story picks up its pace, and we learn the other side of the story. Some people compared this book to Gone Girl because of its two distinct stories, but I thought this was far from a good comparison. It has better writing and character development, making it a work of literary fiction that deserves its National Book Award Nomination. It is also not a condemnation of the institution of marriage, but a wonderfully nuanced look at the relationship of two people.

Those who enjoy literary fiction and lyrical writing will enjoy the book.

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