Fates and Furies

Lauren Groff’s “Fates and Furies” is a gift for literary readers. It is full of ambitious writing, features two fascinating protagonists, a cast of interesting and recognizable secondary characters, and reading it feels like her world is washing over you, in turn warm and chilly.

At the outset, it is hard to feel engaged with this book. Lotto’s half (“Fates”) of the book is written with lofty, playwright-inspired prose. Sometimes this feels indulgent, sophisticated and overly theatrical. But it is worth sticking through to the second half (Mathilde’s “Furies”) where the prose comes back down to earth, and the character and plot details come with more fireworks. When Mathilde takes center stage, the novel is taken to another level.

In fact, if readers find themselves interested in the sordid details of Mathilde’s past, the struggles she went through to become who she is and the kind of story that comes out of a life like that, Yanagihara’s “A Little Life” may be of interest. It too, is full of difficult, gut-wrenching characters and stories that require nerves of steel from a reader, but pay off in big ways for your interest.

Ultimately, though, “Fates and Furies” remained too unbalanced for me to consider it a favorite. Spending nearly 200 pages feigning interest in Lotto and then reconciling the sometimes unbelievable things Mathilde goes through in the next 200 pages made for a disjointed experience. There is a lot to love in this book, but also a lot to roll your eyes at.