I often wonder how my husband perceives me. How does my voice sound to him? Does he think I have a good side? Can he tell when I agree to his plans out of laziness rather than interest?
Do I actually want to know the answers to these questions?
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff, is one of the most talked-about books of this season, and for good reason. It's a sweeping, multi-perspective portrait of a seemingly happy marriage that dives into each spouse's mind to fascinating and, at times, depressing effect.
Lotto Satterwhite is a failed actor turned famous playwright. His wife Mathilde is a strong, at times stoic, partner who supports the couple during his early failures and manages matters when his business takes off.
The first half of the novel takes Lotto's perspective, following him from childhood in Florida past the untimely death of his father, beyond prep school in the Northeast — an experience marked by debauchery as well as tragedy — on past the couple's pre-graduation wedding, through his rise as a playwright. Next comes Mathilde's point of view, revisiting some of the same scenes while adding new details from her past as well as the turns her life takes following the end of their marriage.
By the end of Lotto's half, the story almost feels complete. And perhaps a less ambitious novelist would have left it there. But Groff pushes further, giving the reader Mathilde's view of the marriage, the man and herself. Mathilde's portion confirms some details only hinted at in the first half, while adding layers and layers to a character appreciated but not entirely known by her husband.
And perhaps there is value in that lack of knowing, because the reader is left feeling that this is a couple that, though tested, is meant to be. If everything were laid bare, would the two be able to accept each other? Perhaps not. People need secrets; some are just better at deciding which ones to reveal than others.
So how much does it matter what is exactly under the surface, so long as the overall product or person or whatever is great? I attempted to answer that question with this raspberry-peach crumble. On top, it's all buttery crumble and sliced almonds and below, it's full of a syrupy, tart tangle of berries and stonefruit — some of which happen to be frozen. And in the final product, that doesn't matter.