Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.
The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. He is the darling of a prosperous Florida family – “Lotto was special. Golden”. She, an apparent “ice princess”, is the survivor of a past about which her husband has only the fuzziest idea beyond it being “sad and dark”, and above all “blank behind her”. The first half of the book offers Lotto’s view of their life together as he rises from charming but failed actor to celebrated playwright, thanks in no small part to Mathilde’s editorial finesse. The second half reveals that Mathilde has, through implacable willpower, transcended circumstances that read like a hotchpotch of Greek tragedy, fable and detective novel. Much of what Lotto takes for granted in his good fortune, it turns out, is due to Mathilde’s ruthless machination, right down to their marriage itself. She genuinely loves him, but she initially set out to win him for mercenary reasons.
But Fates and Furies, like Gone Girl, wrenches the old wronged-woman formula out of joint. These are both tales of female puppet masters, geniuses who invisibly engineer their marriages to appear to best advantage to outsiders – and, in the case of Groff’s novel, to the husband himself. Amy Dunne does it to take revenge, to bring the hapless Nick to heel and to consolidate her power over him. Mathilde does it to preserve the security she has sought all her life and to protect Lotto from ever knowing “the scope of her darkness”. Each woman is far cleverer than her spouse.