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Debut novel tells story of male friendships

Men may be overrepresented in the halls of power and executive suites, but a look around the bookshelves shows that boys are a great source of anxiety to teachers, parents and experts these days. One can’t escape titles like “The Trouble With Boys” and “Boys Adrift.”

For a fascinating look into the world of boys and how they evolve into men, my money is on Hannah Pittard and her debut novel, “The Fates Will Find Their Way.” Pittard, who is a visiting assistant professor of creative writing at DePaul University, recently reflected on her highly praised new novel over lunch.

“I’ve always been fascinated by male friendships,” Pittard says. “And I’ve also been intrigued by the way certain men fixate on their pasts.”

At the center of the novel is the disappearance of 16-year-old Nora Lindell on Halloween. But solving this mystery is not the point of the book.

“I needed a launching pad, a springboard that would let me talk about obsession, specifically men’s obsession,” Pittard says.

While growing up, Pittard had known a girl whose older sister had been kidnapped. “Only very cursorily does this factor into why I wrote the book,” she says.

Pittard, tall and angular, has written a book as taut and smart as is she. The novel is narrated in the voices of six boys in the tightly knit town where the novel is set who become obsessed by their schoolmate’s disappearance. They grow into men bound together by this obsession. Over the years they swap stories and theories: She has run away with a Mexican and had twins, for example. They float theories of rape and murder ― and they relate to one another by recounting stories about Lindell and her sad sister, Sissy.
Novelist Hannah Pittard, author of “The Fates Will Find Their Way” is photographed in Chicago. (MCT)
Novelist Hannah Pittard, author of “The Fates Will Find Their Way” is photographed in Chicago. (MCT)

Pittard claims that she is a sprinter of a writer, who can spend 15 minutes as easily as 15 hours at her computer writing. In her earliest drafts of the book, Pittard thought that the story would be told by both boys and girls, but early on she realized that the boys were more compelling.

“I realized after the first two pages that I was most interested in the boys ― their sexuality, their longings, their regrets,” Pittard says.

Pittard, 32, attended Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in a town by that name in Massachusetts, and perhaps that is one reason she so deftly evokes that idea of young people living apart, with their own codes, language and mores. In “The Fates Will Find Their Way,” Pittard creates a world not located in a particular place or part of the nation. In a way, she wanted the story to transcend place.

“I want readers to fall in love with the book,” Pittard reflects. “I want them to have their hearts broken. But I also want them to see something of themselves in the story ― something of their own childhoods or their own obsessions.”

By Elizabeth Taylor

(Chicago Tribune)

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)
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