Hannah Pittard’s new novel is intriguing from the outset: the book’s narrator is a collective ‘we,’ a first-person plural narrator gathering the received anti-wisdom of a group of neighbourhood boys in a suburban town. But the way the story plays out, covering conjecture with the sheen of fact and writing myth into stone, Pittard ropes the reader in as well.
The signature event of The Fates unfolds before the first page. High-schooler Nora Lindell, a private-school girl admired by her male classmates, disappears on Halloween. The event is so outside the norm – one gets the sense that these kids know where everyone is at all times – that it sends ripples of confusion and gossip through the community. One boy claims he saw her waiting at the bus station, another says he saw her at the bus station, too, but that she opted to get into the car of a stranger. Another one wonders aloud if their tryst a month before caused her to run away, though the rest are doubtful of his claim.
Pittard says the collective voice was there with her from the outset of the story. ‘For me, it allowed the intimacy of first person and the distance of third,’ she explains. ‘There’s something very creepy about being treated like you’re part of the group – especially when you’ve never actually met the members – and I like the possible implications of that creepiness.’
The adolescent minds of teenage boys only exacerbate that creepiness. Sissy proves beguiling to the collective narrator, not just because of her beauty, but her refusal to let them in.‘I’ve been fascinated by gossip all my life – watching that smidgen of truth transform itself from mouth to mouth into something hideous and hurtful,’ says Pittard. ‘I’ve been very hurt by gossip personally. I’ve also been a part of the spreading of it. I wanted to write something that implicated all of us. We tell ourselves stories every day. Some days those stories get away from us, from truth, and we let them.’