The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard, William Heinemann, RRP£12.99, 246 pages
A void lies at the heart of Hannah Pittard’s exceptional first novel: 17-year-old Nora Lindell has gone missing from a small American town on Halloween. Was she abducted? Did she run away? Rumours fly among the local boys: an airport sighting, a suspicious car. But with no sign of her, they are left to carry their speculations into adulthood. The Fates Will Find Their Way beautifully details the effect of her disappearance, casting a shadow on relationships and providing a focus for fantasy and projection. A book of “what ifs”, it’s also a beautifully crafted portrait of men slipping almost imperceptibly from childhood to middle-age. If the mystery is never solved, there is at least one chilling hint of what may have happened, thrown in so subtly the reader barely notices.
Combining the wistfulness of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones with the formal daring of David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide, it’s hard to imagine a better debut this year.