A 16-year-old named Nora goes missing from her tight-knit community one Halloween night and is never seen or heard from again. Though the premise sounds familiar, Hannah Pittard's mesmerizing debut, The Fates Will Find Their Way
(Ecco), is no police procedural. With every carefully chosen word—and in this short, intense novel, each one counts—Pittard brilliantly draws us into the maturing consciousness of a group of neighborhood boys who make Nora's sudden but continuing absence the defining event of their lives over the next 30 years. Narrating in a collective first-person voice reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides
, the boys reveal their life stories through the prism of their fascination with the missing girl's fate. They collect clues and hearsay, and imagine scenarios for Nora that range from murder to teen motherhood to lesbian love in Mumbai, all the while experiencing their own rites of passage—sex, drugs, marriage. As husbands, they maintain collective fantasies and share "vague and unfair comparisons between what our wives were and what she might have been." Gradually we see how the boys, at times indistinguishable, have developed as individuals: The one envied because he may have slept with Nora becomes a sexual predator; the pitied "weird kid" ends up happy. He's the one, in fact, who compels the others to let go of the past and accept "the obvious realization that this—this
, all around us—is our life."
— Liza Nelson