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Publisher's Summary

From the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception.

Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.

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 24 years.

At age 22 Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

©2015 Lauren Groff (P)2015 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Lauren Groff's gripping new novel is told in two parts, his and hers, which makes it perfect for a dual narration...the performances are superb." (AudioFile)

What members say

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Tall Characters Copulating

Despite being one of the best reviewed books of the year, this novel feels like a mechanical production, something borne of a calculated idea rather than a deeply felt literary work. A marriage from two perspectives is fine as an idea, although hardly original. But when Evan S. Connell did it with his novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr Bridge, the characters felt alive and multi-dimensional. Those PEOPLE were at the heart. Drawn with subtlety. Here, we're stuck with two excessively tall concepts.

Reader reviews complain about "unlikable characters". But it isn't that--who doesn't love unlikeable characters??-- it's just that for 200 pages, the characters are boring, boring, boring. No interesting insights or ideas, no humor. It's impossible to image Lotto as a "famous playwright" (never mind "genius") since we only have evidence of him being a dullard. And the descriptions of the plays make them sound dreadful.

When, in the second half, the characters become more "interesting", the events are SO extreme, the backstories so wildly over-the-top (cruelty, rape, abandonment, prostitution, theft, you name it) the book lurches into psychological thriller category, minus the suspense. We find out that Mathilde (the wife) was/is a psycho, but the husband is already dead, so it's just served up as background. And little of it is plausible in the universe set up in the first half of the book. The scenes with the "private detective" are an embarrassment. Did no one edit this book?

Groff is a talented, intelligent writer who often crafts beautiful sentences and images. She's for sure NO HACK. She's doing something interesting with point-of-view, even if it at times feels forced. But so much overwriting and so many classical lit references tossed in to "elevate" this silliness and bait critics.

A word on the sex: We're told over and over and over how hot these two main characters are for each other, even down to some really silly, boilerplate s/m nonsense and bondage. (When the neckties come out, you know you're in for something you've already read a million times.) For some reason, I found it creepy. It's the antithesis of erotic and because the characters are so bloodless, it's oddly unsettling, like watching someone making a fool of themselves while trying to be "sexy". No sexual cliche is overlooked, from homosexual molestation to sexual humiliation via sushi.

The narrators are good, the woman far superior to the man. (His voices for women characters make them sound like ninnies.)

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Paean to Marriage, Mythology and Theatre

"Marriage is made of lies; kind ones, mostly. Omissions. If you give voice to the things you think every day about your spouse, you'd crush them to paste. She never lied, just never said."

The difficulty in reviewing this novel (recently named to the National Book Award longlist), moreso than many others, is to avoid giving away too much of the plot or structure.

Ms. Groff has written a book that, in resplendent prose, dissects marriage: a community of 2... as 1 ("in they came integers, out they came squared"). We see the background and the marriage first from the husband's perspective, then from the wife's point of view. I heard Ms. Groff say in an interview that it took her nearly 5 years to write this book. It shows, splendidly. The novel is fabulous, at times stormy, and always ambitious, and has all the elements of the greats: passion, deception, betrayal, tragedy, redemption.

Lauren Groff probes the marriage of two vibrant and fully-developed characters, Lotto and Mathilde (and an assorted, colorful cast of their friends and family) by calling, with seeming ease, to the ancients in Greek tragedies, mythology (and mermaids), and, of course, the marvelously provided subtext of the Fates and Furies.

Lotto is a failed actor turned playwright, and Mathilde is quite the scholar in the fine arts. So quite naturally, the novel is also a paean to the theater ("empty theaters are quieter than other empty places"), playwrights, Shakespearean tragedies, complimented by remarkable symbolism and short readings of rich pieces of original meta-plays, while always avoiding any trace of the affected, didactic or overly erudite.

I found this to be a strikingly rewarding and quite original novel that made me reflect heavily upon good and evil (and the gray gulf between), the different perspectives and forms of love of each spouse and what "marriage" really means as two meld into (but are never quite) one.

The narrators were perfect.

I highly recommend this novel.

58 of 63 people found this review helpful

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  • Marjorie
  • Santa Rosa, CA, United States
  • 10-05-15

A Talented Author But.....

If you had asked me during the first half of "Fates and Furies" how I would rate it, I would have given it only two stars. This is a novel covering twenty years in the lives of a married couple of privilege. The first half of the novel presents the life of the husband, Lotto. I struggled to relate to the husband and the wife throughout the telling of the husband's story. Yet, the second half of the novel, the married life as told through the voice of the wife, Mathilde, brought the novel to life. Mathilde's version of this marriage reveals the secrets untold; it breathes life into the sugar coated, two dimensional portrayal of this marriage that Lotto's story provides in the first half. The author writes with depth and finesse. Many sentences are perfectly crafted as they describe the complexities of relationship and build images that I felt I could reach out and touch. So, though I did have to suffer through the first half of the novel, I would recommend this novel based on the unique and gifted writing of Ms. Groff, on the poetry of the language she builds, and on the interesting portrayal of marriage which she unfurls.

39 of 44 people found this review helpful

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I can't tell if this is awful or if I'm just dumb.

What would have made Fates and Furies better?

If it was an entirely different story with all different characters, it would be great.

Would you ever listen to anything by Lauren Groff again?

No. If all of her books are like this I will never listen or read anything by her again.

Would you be willing to try another one of Will Damron and Julia Whelan ’s performances?

Definitely NOT Will Damron. The content of this book with the way he read it was just creepy.

What character would you cut from Fates and Furies?

Every single one of them. They are all awful humans and this book basically should not exist.

Any additional comments?

Like my headline says... I may not be smart enough to understand this book because it was not enjoyable for me in the least. Is it too deep and everything went over my head? Or is the author trying too hard to be deep and forcing it? I painfully kept listening for some sort of connection to anything in this book. None of the characters had any sort of redeeming qualities. None of the relationships felt real. The male reader made my skin crawl. I just thoroughly disliked this book. Do not waste your time.

30 of 35 people found this review helpful

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  • jennifer
  • BROOKLYN, NY, United States
  • 02-27-16

A confounding, astonishing novel.

I almost returned it. The first hour was tedious and my mind wandered a lot.

It was lewd, too, and I decided that this was a book that was trying too hard to be edgy. I put it aside for a few weeks.

Now that I've finished it I can't believe I almost dismissed this modern masterpiece. It is a marvelous, astounding book! True literary fiction, which is often better read than listened to.
The story isn't much at first, but it explodes into an intricate and hugely satisfying tale by the end. It's one of those rare novels that compels you to read all over again after you finish it, knowing what you now know.

Stick with this book. It will reward you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Teresa
  • Okemos, MI, United States
  • 11-03-15

Sad book; kind of ugly

I don't idealize marriage--in fact I have real issues with marriage. But this book could put you off marriage, loyalty, innocence and honesty permanently. Probably the real problem is I don't share this author's view of the world. And I feel fortunate that that's true. I don't want to live in her world. I heard her interviewed on NPR and I was a little put off by her political views of marriage. But I thought--well, that's a little bit of youth and a little bit of over compensation. That's okay. Couldn't give the same pass to the book. Dreary, sad, and a dog named God. A dog named God--that probably best sums up the pretentious angst of this book. Don't waste your credit.

46 of 56 people found this review helpful

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The language of imagery. The story behind the story.

This book was purchased by my daughter and I did not think I would enjoy it. However, I was engrossed by imagery that the author painted with words. Then the story itself captivated me with the story telling from and by each characters perspective. Well done! The book reveals in back story why and how events happened and more interesting how the characters lives were shaped. Again I say well done and a good read or listen.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrea
  • Bloomfield, CT, United States
  • 10-24-15

Self- consciously literate

Dreadful. The author tried so hard to be "deep" that it became ponderous. I can't remember a book that packed in so many analogies just to prove how clever the author is.

37 of 47 people found this review helpful

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What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Not a likeable character in the entire book. This book is pure elitist claptrap with literary pretensions. If you would enjoy a class of '48 Yale cocktail party banter, you might enjoy this book.

32 of 41 people found this review helpful

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I did not enjoy this story at all. I could not find one redeeming trait in any of the characters. The story is depressing, the characters are depressing and you are left with a "what was the point of this story" feeling when finished.

31 of 40 people found this review helpful