Fates and Furies (Groff)

Fates and Furies 
Lauren Groff, 2015
Penguin Publishing
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781594634482

A literary masterpiece that defies expectation and 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 twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, 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.  (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—July 23, 1978
Where—Cooperstown, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Amherst College; M.F.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Awards—Pushcart Prize
Currently—lives in Gainesville, Florida

Lauren Groff is an American novelist and short story writer, who was as born and raised in Cooperstown, New York. She graduated from Amherst College and from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with an MFA in fiction.

Groff is the author of three novels. Her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton (2008), is a contemporary tale about coming home to Templeton, a stand-in for Cooperstown, New York. Interspersed in the book are voices from characters drawn from the town's history, as well as from James from Fenimore Cooper's 1823 The Pioneers, the first book in the Leatherstocking Tales. Fenimore Cooper set his book in a fictionalized Cooperstown which he, too, called Templeton. Groff's debut landed on the New York Times Bestseller list and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Groff's second novel, Arcadia (2012), recounts the story of the first child born in a fictional 1960s commune in upstate New York. It, too, became a New York Times Bestseller, received solid reviews, and was named as one of the Best Books of 2012 by the New York Times, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, Vogue, Toronto Globe and Mail, and Christian Science Monitor.

Fates and Furies (2015), Groff's third novel, examines a complicated marriage over the course of 24 years aas told by first the husband, then his wife. Like her previous novels, it, too, was published to wide acclaim, some calling it "brilliant," with Ron Charles of the Washington Post saying that "Lauren Groff just keeps getting better and better."

Groff has had short stories published in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Five Points, and Ploughshares, as well as the anthologies Best New American Voices 2008, Pushcart Prize XXXII, and Best American Short Stories—the 2007, 2010 and 2014 editions. Many of her stories appear in her collection Delicate Edible Birds (2009).

Groff is married with two children and currently lives in Gainesville, Florida. Groff's sister is the Olympic Triathlete Sarah True. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/22/2015.)

Book Reviews
[T]he elaborate, sensual and sometimes deliberately misleading story of a marriage…One of the pleasures of reading Ms. Groff is her sheer unpredictability: She can inject her narrator's voice at any time, turn a sentence into a small hurricane, even milk a greeting for far more than it's worth…Ms. Groff's prose can be gorgeous, especially with the erotic heat she brings to it here…[her] books…are too exotic and unusual to be missed.
Janet Maslin - New York Times

The deepest satisfaction gained by reading "Furies" after "Fates" lies less in admiring how tidily the puzzle pieces snap together—though they do—than in experiencing one's own kaleidoscopic shift of emotions and concerns. The disclosure of multiple secrets can have the effect of thinning a story, an abundance of answers overpowering all mystery, but Groff somehow manages to transform revelation into an agent of intricacy. As we know more, we know less—a rare and impressive result…Groff has created a novel of extraordinary and genuine complexity…The word "ambitious" is often used as code for "overly ambitious," a signal that an author's execution has fallen short. No such hidden message here. Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts, and Fates and Furies is an unabashedly ambitious novel that delivers—with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout.
Robin Black - New York Times Book Review

The Florida author’s third novel is billed as her most ambitious yet, filled with sex, rage and revenge.
Wall Street Journal

Even from her impossibly high starting point, Lauren Groff just keeps getting better and better. Fates and Furies is a clear-the-ground triumph.
Ron Charles - Washington Post

Groff breaks the novel form open at the seams… What's different and remarkable about Groff's third novel can be summarized in two little words: the writing. Groff is a prose virtuoso, and in Fates and Furies she offers up her writerly gifts in all their glory
Chicago Tribune 

Audacious and gorgeous …. The result is not only deliciously voyeuristic but also wise on the simultaneous comforts and indignities of romantic partnership.
Los Angeles Times

 [Fates and Furies] is a stunning 360-degree view of a complex relationship… There’s almost nothing that [Groff is] not interested in and her skill set is breathtaking…It’s an incredibly ambitious work, she writes like her hands are on fire.
Richard Russo - NPR

Lauren Groff rips at the seams of an outwardly perfect marriage in her enchanting novel Fates and Furies.
Vanity Fair

We can’t help but be fascinated by the possibility of what goes on behind closed doors—especially if there’s a glam, madly-in-love couple on the other side. Meet Mathilde and Lotto. Groff’s novel unfolds in a he said/she said gutting drama that you won’t be able to resist.
Marie Claire

[This] story is a storm you hope won’t blow over: surprising, wild, with pockets of calm that build anticipation for the next squall… Groff scours her characters, laying them bare so questions of likability are moot. If, in the end, everyone is flawed, everyone also attains a kind of nobility.
Oprah Magazine

(Starred review.) In a swirling miasma of language, plot, and Greek mythology, Groff weaves a fierce and gripping tale of true love gone asunder.... There are moments when the writing feels self-indulgent, but, for the most part, it's an intoxicating elixir.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review.) In this surprising and complex love story, Groff explores the obsessive nature of love....Like a classic tragedy, Groff's novel offers high drama, hubris, and epic love, complete with Greek chorus-like asides. A singular and compelling literary read, populated with extraordinary characters —Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA
Library Journal

(Starred review.) Dark and dazzling.... [Groff’s prose] seduces the reader as much as the golden couple at the center of the compelling story....Taking a page from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl–like view of marriage, Groff fashions a searing, multilayered portrait of a union that seems to thrive on its darkest secrets.

(Starred review.) An absorbing story of a modern marriage framed in Greek mythology.... The author gives this novel a harder edge and darker glow than previous work.... An intricate plot, perfect title, and a harrowing look at the tie that binds.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion of Fates and Furies:

1. Why is Lancelot connected with the "Fate" chapter? How would you describe his personality—do you consider him passive, optimistic (unreasonably so?), fair-minded and accepting? Is he humble or, maybe, egotistical?

2. Follow-up to Question 1: We're told that his parents and aunt, early on, believed Lotto was destined for greatness: "It was taken for granted by this trio of adults that Lotto was special. Golden.” What effect does this expectation have on his life? What effect does any such expectation have on anyone's life?

3. What about Mathilde? How would you describe her as a character? In what way is she different from, perhaps even the opposite of, Lotto?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: How do Mathilde's early years—in particular, its tragedy—shape the path of her life? Is fate to blame for her ruthlessness? If so, why is she associated with the "Furies" chapter rather than the "Fates" chapter?

5. In what way does the early tragedy in Lotto's life draw him to Mathilde? And vice versa—what attracts Mathilde to Lotto? How would you describe the early stages of their love and marriage? Are cracks visible at the beginning...or is all smoothness and perfection?

6. Why does Lauren Groff structure her book the way she does: two separate chapters told by two different characters? Why might she have started off with Lotto's account before Mathilde's? What difference would it have made if she had placed Lotto's after Mathilde's? What exactly gets revealed in Mathilde's telling, and were you surprised?

7. Clearly, this book is about a marriage. But the author tackles far broader issues—one of which was addressed in earlier questions (#2 and 4): to what extent do early experiences shape character and life events? Another question Groff examines is what really constitutes such things as "good fortune"? A third question has to do with the extent to which we can truly understand our own life or the life of someone close to us. Tangentially, is it possible to truly know another being? Do you want to weigh in on any of those issues? For starters, how does the novel pose those questions?

8. Talk about the author's use of wordplay, starting with, say, the name Lotto...and even Lancelot. Where else do you find words with double meanings?

9. How much do you know about classical mythology, especially the Fates and the Furies? Who are they in Greek mythology? Where else in the novel does Groff rely on mythology? Notice, for instance, the narrative interruptions, the unnamed voice who interjects and comments. How do those interjections resemble a Greek chorus—and why use such a narrative technique?

10. Are you able to pinpoint other literary allusions—say, to Shakespeare?

11. In what way are readers deliberately misled in this story—and why? Did you feel somewhat manipulated? Or is that the point of Groff's writing?

12. Any similarities here to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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