A Lost Girl And Found Imaginations In 'The Fates'

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The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
The Fates Will Find Their Way
By Hannah Pittard
Hardcover, 256 pages
List Price: $22.99
Read An Excerpt

In Hannah Pittard's first novel, The Fates Will Find Their Way, a 16-year-old girl named Nora Lindell inexplicably disappears one day. Left in her wake are the neighborhood kids, who become entranced by the possibilities of what happened to her. A group of teenage boys become the most fascinated with Nora, and their years spent wondering eventually crafts them into remarkable characters.

The acclaimed novel, which has recently been the object of a bidding war between foreign publishers, is narrated in a first-person plural voice. It begins as the thoughts of a large group of generic young teenage boys. But eventually they become separate people, with their own histories and qualities.

"These boys — they shared an amorphous boy brain. I never intended for them to become individuals, and then when I was writing it, I got to a point halfway though ... and the next thing I knew, I'm not kidding, it was — these boys were so real, and it was as though I had gone to school with them," Pittard says.

Once the characters had materialized — such as Danny Hatchet, who wears sweatshirts every day, has acne, and is the kind of kid who would hit a dog — Pittard decided to explore their imaginations. Out of this came many alternative visions of what could have happened, like Nora living in Arizona with a man named Mundo, or in Mumbai with a female henna artist. The novel doesn't resolve a lot of loose ends that readers may wish were answered. When Pittard's agent asked how she would respond to the inevitable question of how the story really ends, she said she couldn't answer the question if she wanted to, because she herself didn't know.

Instead of resolving what exactly happens to Nora Lindell, the novel explores the effects of growing up in a swirl of rumors, accusations and regrets. In middle school, Pittard knew a girl whose older sister had been kidnapped. The uncertainty of the event — combined with an active childhood imagination — resulted in a fascination with the possibilities of what could have happened.

"I spent a lot of time myself trying to fill in those gaps, and I was very aware of the stories that I made up, and that my fellow classmates made up," Pittard says. "And we somehow knew that we were all lying or exaggerating, and yet the excitement of that exaggeration — we couldn't stop."

Some of the more memorable details of the novel relate to the period in which it takes place; to communicate, the neighborhood parents use phone trees. Pittard says she wanted to return to a time before instantaneous communication meant that everyone knew where you were at all times — the kind of time when people still made firm plans well in advance of when and where they would meet. Similarly, no one truly knows Nora's whereabouts, and Pittard couldn't help but make it that way.

"Obviously, I think in a way I fell a little bit in love with Nora Lindell, or otherwise I probably would have been successfully able to do away with her once and for all. But I think even in my own brain I just needed the possibility that, exactly as you just said, she might waltz through that door at any minute."

Excerpt: 'The Fates Will Find Their Way'

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
The Fates Will Find Their Way
By Hannah Pittard
Hardcover, 256 pages
List Price: $22.99

Chapter One

Some things were certain; they were undeni­able, inarguable. Nora Lindell was gone, for one thing. There was no doubt about that. For another, it was Halloween when she went missing, which only served to compound the eeriness, the mysteriousness of her disappearance. Of course, it wasn't until the first day of November that most of us found out she was gone, because it wasn't until the day after Hal­loween that her father realized she hadn't come home the night before and so started calling our parents.

From what we could tell, and from how the phone tree was ordered that year, Jack Boyd's parents got the first phone call. Mrs. Boyd, as prescribed by the tree, called Mrs. Epstein, who called Mrs. Zblowski, who called Mrs. Jeffreys. By the time the tree had been completed, many mothers had already gotten word of Nora's disappearance either from us — running from house to house — or from Mr. Lindell himself, who'd broken phone-tree etiquette and continued making calls even after getting off the phone with Mrs. Boyd. It was a breach in etiquette that our mothers forgave, obviously, but one that they agreed tacitly, behind the back of Mr. Lindell, added unnecessarily to the general confusion of the day.

The phone tree produced no new information. But it did, accidentally, serve to remind our moth­ers that the time change had come late that year and that all the clocks should be set back an hour. How we'd forgotten, none of us knew. But somewhere in the branches and twigs of the phone tree, a mother remembered that in addition to having lost Nora, we'd gained an hour. All our mothers could do was promise Mr. Lindell to ask us about his daughter when we returned home that night, an hour later than they expected.

With our curfew the same but with the day that much longer, while our mothers waited at home for our return, while the leaves changed and fell seem­ingly in a single afternoon, turned from green to orange to pewter to nothing, we stayed outdoors and away from our parents. We stayed away from the girls as best we could — all but Sarah Jeffreys who, for various reasons, was nearly impossible to want to stay away from — as though allegiance to our own sex would somehow solve the mystery, once we'd learned of it, all the faster. We interrogated each other for information, eager to be the one to discover the truth. As it turned out, we'd all seen Nora the day before, but seen her in different places doing dif­ferent things — we'd seen her at the swing sets, at the riverbank, in the shopping mall. We'd seen her mak­ing phone calls in the telephone booth outside the liquor store, inside the train station, behind the dollar store. We'd seen her in her field hockey sweats, in her jean jacket, in her uniform. We saw her smoking a cigarette, sucking a lollipop, eating a hot dog. surely she'd gone to the midnight thriller trilogy with us all (we called it the midnight show, though it was over by ten, just in time for curfew), and yet when we ques­tioned each other — asked who had gotten to sit next to her, to share popcorn with her, to scare her when she was least expecting it — none of us could take credit.

Trey Stephens, the only public schooler among us, was the last to find out since his parents weren't on the tree. He lived in the neighborhood and we'd known him forever. His was the largest basement, with neon beer signs and stolen street signs, a giant fish tank and two dartboards, a full-size pool table and a drum kit. And it was there that we congregated the evening after Halloween as the sun began to fall, determined to wait out the extended curfew, to tell him and each other the story of Nora Lindell gone missing.

Trey, feeling excluded and irritated at being the last to find out, confessed to having had sex with Nora the month before. He wondered aloud about whether this might have had something to do with her disap­pearance. We doubted it strongly, as well as the fact that he'd had sex with her at all, and we said so, but he told us about her uniform and the way she lifted her skirt but didn't take it off. He told us about her knee socks and how one stayed up while the other got pushed down. He told us about the skin on her legs, which was white and pink and stubbly. There were crumbs on her knees, he said. Crumbs from the carpet in his basement.

One at time, when we each felt we weren't being looked at, we ran our hands across the carpet, feeling for the crumbs — perhaps the very same crumbs — that might once have snuggled between the tiny blond hairs on Nora Lindell's kneecaps. It was exactly how we'd have imagined having sex, if we'd ever dared to imag­ine it, and so we let ourselves believe Trey Stephens, his reality so closely overlapping our own fantasies.

Excerpted from The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard Copyright © 2011 by Hannah Pittard. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, a division of Harper Collins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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