Last Monday night, the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series brought award-winning writers Lauren Groff and Ann Patchett to the Alley Theatre. Trying to find a seat in the sold-out crowd, I ran into a friend from my graduate program. We fell into a sudden and deep discussion about marriage, and what it means when only one rather than both members of a couple are able to pursue the career of their choice. How can you decide whose vocation will shape a family’s life?
Both of the featured novels that night, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, concern the consequences of marriage, either maintained or dissolved, and the discussion that followed revealed the depth with which both writers have entertained questions similar to our own.
Groff introduced her reading by describing the composition of Fates and Furies, which examines a marriage from husband Lotto’s perspective before we hear from his wife Mathilde. As moments and phrases leapt to mind, Groff says she darted from her desk to record them on butcher paper hung from the wall, one for each character. Her startling language and sharp sense of the absurd was a perfect complement to Ann Patchett’s reading, which featured a large cast of Benadryl-tripping, gin-stealing, gun-toting kids whose families have been recombined by their parents’ changed relationships. In her selected passage, they mistake their longing to spend summer at a nearby lake as the source of their dislocation and sorrow. Continue reading