Hannah Pittard’s (Grad ‘07) novel The Fates Will Find Their Way begins with a mystery: 16-year-old Nora Lindell is missing. There are no concrete clues about her whereabouts, just glimmers of possibility. One of her classmates thinks he saw her get into a Pontiac Catalina with somebody and drive off into the night; another surmises that she ran away to relatives in Arizona. It becomes clear that the novel is less concerned with Nora’s whereabouts and more interested in what the boys—who were her classmates and admirers—project onto her disappearance: their hopes for her return, their theories and, ultimately, the stories that they tell themselves. Pittard’s novel is unusual in that she tells the story in the first person plural, a narrative choice that reveals the collective consciousness of the boys. “We thought about Nora, of course,” reads the narration in the opening pages. “We told stories. But, the more time passed and the more we began to understand she was really gone, the more we kept our fantasies to ourselves.”
“It never occurred to me not to tell it that way,” says Pittard. “The only thing that changed—and changed quickly—is that originally I’d imagined the plural voice to be the voice of the boys and girls who’d gone to school with Nora. By page two, though, I just knew it was going to be boys alone who told the story.”
Why focus on the boys? It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that Nora doesn’t turn up right away. The novel covers a lot of ground throughout the lives of the boys, their eventual weddings, children and neighborhood barbeques. They still talk about Nora, even into their 40s and 50s. How can they move on from high school with something left unsolved? How will they build their own lives?
Pittard wrote The Fates Will Find Their Way while staying at a farm outside of Charlottesville for a summer and waiting tables. She now teaches at DePaul University in Chicago. “The themes of the book were themes that had been brewing for a long time: regret, obsession, childhood,” she says, and those are ultimately what will stay with readers who delve into her haunting debut.