Fates and Furies Summary

Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Fates and Furies Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

Fates and Furies is a 2015 novel by Lauren Groff, author of several short stories and two other novels The Monsters of Templeton (2008) and Arcadia (2012). Fates and Furies was very well received and reviewed, topping Amazon.com’s ‘Best Book of 2015’ list and earning several other nominations. In brief, the novel tells the story of a marriage in two parts. The first half (“Fates”) is told from the perspective of the husband, Lotto, and the second (“Furies”) is from the perspective of his wife, Mathilde. Groff has said in interviews that she had originally wanted to write two separate novels in a similar style to Evan S. Connell’s Mrs. Bridge (1959) and Mr Bridge (1969). However, according to Laura Miller’s review in Slate, the achievement of the novel is that it is really two separate stories in one binding, much like the Lotto and Mathilde have two separate live bound together by their 24-year marriage.

The title is an allusion to Greek mythological figures and reveals the two forces that seem to govern Lotto and Mathilde’s lives. Lotto (short for Lancelot) is most affected by luck, even when his is poor and many of the circumstances of his life are manipulated by people around him. Of course, he does not know any of this. Everything in Lotto’s half of the novel appears to be a complete and true version of events – until all the ways Mathilde has been working behind the scenes to make it happen is revealed in the second half. She is driven, most often by desire and not the sense of rage the title appears to suggest. In fact, many of the things that Mathilde remembers are completely different than Lotto’s version of events. But far from making Lotto into a liar, this functions to show how little we know of the interior lives of one another, even after 24 years of marriage. Throughout the text are bracketed asides, resembling the commentary of a Greek chorus.

Lotto and his younger sister Rachel come from a wealthy family. Their father dies when they are fairly young and they are raised by their mother Antoinette and Aunt Sallie. Lotto begins experimenting with drugs with his friends Chollie and Gwennie.  Lotto and Gwennie become particularly close, and he is deeply affected by her death from an overdose while he is in college. Lotto decides he is going to commit suicide, until he sees Mathilde and decides instead that he will marry her. He proposes to her and she instantly agrees, and despite the fact that his mother and friends expect the marriage to fail, the two grow in love and stay together. Lotto fails in his ambition to become an actor, and turns to drinking, like his father did. One New Year’s Eve, in a drunken haze he spends five hours writing a play about his family life, called The Springs. Mathilde wakes him joyously the next morning saying that she has read it and that he has found his true calling. At first his plays require financial backing from Mathilde’s uncle, but Lotto’s plays are quite well received and he eventually earns enough money that allows them to buy a house outside of New York City. Chollie reappears with the news that he found out that Mathilde had an affair with a gallery owner named Ariel while they were in college. Lotto is shocked by the revelation and by his mother’s recent death and dies of a broken heart at the age of 46.

The second half of the novel—Mathilde’s half—is much more fantastical in comparison to Lotto’s telling. She is born Aurelie, in Nantes, France, but is sent away when she “accidentally” allows her four year old brother to fall down the stairs and die. After sleeping in her grandmother’s closet for six years, she is sent to live with an uncle in Pennsylvania, where she changes her name to Mathilde. She begins a business-like relationship with the gallery owner Ariel, and has sex with him in order to pay her college tuition. She also deliberately seeks out a marriage with Lotto because of his money, and she has an abortion because she is convinced that her children will have fangs and claws. Mathilde’s memories are much less blindly fortunate than Lotto’s, for example she remembers sneaking at night to rewrite his plays. She also finds out that Lotto’s old girlfriend Gwennie did not die of a drug overdose, but committed suicide after having Lotto’s baby when she was seventeen.