The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard, and Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

missing-milk-carton-psd53543“Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.”

“Some things were certain; they were undeniable, inarguable.  Nora Lindell was gone, for one thing.  There was no doubt about that.”

These are the opening lines from Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng, and The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard.  I happened to pack both for my summer vacation without realizing that despite differences in story-telling technique, both concern high school girls gone missing:  Lydia Lee, a tenth grader at Middlewood High School in Northwest Ohio disappears on May 3, 1977 in Ng’s 2014 bestseller.  Nora Lindell disappears from her widowed father’s home somewhere in the Midwest on Halloween, sometime in the late-1980s in Pittard’s debut novel.  Both Lydia and Nora leave gaping mysteries in their wake to be unravelled by those who loved them most.  In Lydia’s case, her parents and her siblings, Nath and Hannah.  In Nora’s, a chorus of neighborhood boys who speculate about Nora’s life, alternate theories of disappearance, her sole sibling a younger sister and just whose children the three girls are who turn up for Mr. Lindell’s funeral.

everythingEverything I Never Told You begins with the traditional end.  Lydia is dead and her family finds out about it within a few pages of the beginning of the book.  What remains is a meditation on the family’s life, the role of a mixed marriage in a tradition-bound place and time, the pain and recrimination and guilt associates with a woman who relinquished her professional dreams for her family.

The New York Times gave it high praise and named Ng’s debut novel a notable book of the year.

Ng has structured “Everything I Never Told You” so we shift between the family’s theories and Lydia’s own story, and what led to her disappearance and death, moving toward the final, devastating conclusion. What emerges is a deep, heartfelt portrait of a family struggling with its place in history, and a young woman hoping to be the fulfillment of that struggle. This is, in the end, a novel about the burden of being the first of your kind — a burden you do not always survive.

Everything I Never Told You satisfied all my requirements for a great read:  complex, interesting characters, beautiful language, a fascinating plot.  The touchstone references of the Partridge Family/Brady Bunch were a special treat.

fatesThe Fates Will Find Their Way is another debut novel.  Pittard uses the collective voice of the neighborhood boys who were fascinated by Nora Lindell and her sister, Sissy, to speculate as to why she disappeared (she ran away to her grandmother in Arizona; she was molested by a teenager in a Catalina; she was murdered and buried in the leaves two counties away; she caught a plane and never looked back), and what may have happened to her (she died on November 1, 1977, she lived with a man in Arizona and had three children, she ended up in Mumbai).  It is not Nora or Sissy that is important in the reflections of the boys – to – men, it is how their perceptions of Nora reveal their own growth, development, their own triumphs, failures, losses, disappointments, disasters and tragedies.

Jennifer Gilmore’s review in the NYTimes points out:

As deeply felt as “The Fates Will Find Their Way” might be, it only circles around a plot, and so its collective voice eventually loses strength. The more characters are peeled away from the group, the less powerful the original collective becomes. We wind up knowing little more at the end than we did in those opening pages.

But perhaps that’s the point. Though on the surface this seems to be a novel about a girl’s disappearance, at its core it’s about how children become adults. “We cannot help but shudder at the things adults are capable of,” Pittard writes, as the now-grown narrators watch their own daughters. That shift, from what teen­agers can do to one another to what adults can do to children, is crucial. But what this novel is really examining is the moment when such a reckoning occurs.

I have recently read The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides, and found these two novels similar in plot, technique and voice.

Maybe it’s the success of Gone Girl, or the Nancy Grace factor, or simply the existence of Fox News’ Missing Girl channel, but it seems like every time I turn around there’s some version of the missing teen mystery playing somewhere.  These two novels, at least, give the old story a new twist.  Both are excellent book club choices with lots of fodder for discussion — both in terms of plot and execution.



Mrs. Epstein’s Rice Krispie treats

Mrs. Price’s bananas and peanut butter

Mrs. Rutherford’s cake batter

Mrs. Hatchet’s fruit roll-ups, Coca-Cola gummy bottles

Mrs. Dinnerman’s fruit bowl

Mexican food a la Nora’s “Mexican”

Halloween Candy


Char Sui Bau:  Chinese pork buns.  I wouldn’t try to make them, but they play a critical role in the book and it would be fun to purchase some for your party.

Eggs:  Scrambled, Boiled, Over Easy.  Your choice.  Or go for the full commitment, and make them to order.

Swedish Fish candy

Betty Crocker’s White Cake

betty crocker

2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla


  • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan, two 9-inch round cake pans, or three 8-inch round cake pans. In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pan(s).
  • Bake rectangle 40 to 45 minutes, rounds 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangle in pan on cooling rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely. 
  • In 2 1/2-quart saucepan, mix all frosting ingredients except vanilla. Heat to rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute without stirring. Place saucepan in bowl of ice and water. Beat until frosting is smooth and spreadable; stir in vanilla. Frost rectangle or fill and frost layers with frosting. 
Everything contains more music references.  Things like the Partridge Family and Waterloo (ABBA).  Given that Lydia disappears in 1977, any songs from that era would be grand.
Fates contains a lot of scenes that feel like a junior high school make-out party that you just know would be banging out tunes.  But I don’t find mention of anything specific.  There is however, a handy-dandy youtube compilation of the 9 1/2 Weeks soundtrack available here:


No suggestions on this for now.  Feel free to add your own!

Happy Reading!

One thought on “The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard, and Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

  1. Pingback: We Are Family: Reunion by Hannah Pittard | daeandwrite

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