Floridaby Published 05 Jun 2018
Storms, snakes, sinkholes, and secrets: In Lauren Groff’s Florida, the hot sun shines, but a wild darkness lurks.
The New York Times-bestselling author of Fates and Furies returns, bringing the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character—a steely and conflicted wife and mother.
The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. Groff transports the reader, then jolts us alert with a crackle of wit, a wave of sadness, a flash of cruelty, as she writes about loneliness, rage, family, and the passage of time. With shocking accuracy and effect, she pinpoints the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury—the moments that make us alive. Startling, precise, and affecting, Florida is a magnificent achievement.
Lauren Groff's collection of short stories have an underlying character (the place that is Florida) and a lurking theme: what society says mothers should be. There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, danger, and oppressive humidity in these stories, yet they celebrate the strength and resilience of women most often undervalued by our culture. I dare you to read this without underlining brilliant passages.
After wowing readers (former President Barack Obama included) with 2015's 'Fates & Furies,' Lauren Groff returns with a collection that is just as wise and as meticulously constructed. Within the sun-kissed, palmetto-strewn swampland of Groff's Florida we encounter a pair of abandoned sisters, anxious mothers and a woman being pushed to the outer edges of her former life. Looking inward and out, Groff examines the lives of her characters with a surveyor's eye, capturing the sense of dread and desire that pervades their existence. 'Florida' is an exploration of time and place, both sensual and terrifying, and seems to me both timely and timeless.
I really liked this collection! As a Florida boy, I had high expectations and Groff met them and surpassed them. She captured the other side of the place that tourists — and the popular imagination — often miss, the grittiness and the quiet desperation. This collection is filled with a palpable sense of danger lurking around every corner in the natural world. The protagonists go to great lengths to protect themselves from panthers, gators, snakes, hurricanes, etc., but time and again find the greatest threats to come from the inside. There’s also a strong thread of existential panic over global warming, which is quite appropriate for a book that takes as it’s subject Florida, a state with much to lose as des levels rise and the climate warms.
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thanks to riverhead books and edelweiss for the advance copy.
i'm a big fan of lauren groff. i read her 2015 novel, fates and furies, and loved her writing, then met her at a book signing and admired her as a person, too: funny, dazzlingly intelligent, well-read. florida is only the second book i've read of hers, though i plan to remedy that soon.
with florida, she's written a collection of stories that come together to form a loose, novel-esque whole about florida: the good, the bad, and the ugly. some of the stories here knocked me out with emotional resonance—"flower hunters," for example, read like it was carved in its entirety from a deep insecurity, and it socked me in the face. some of them branch out from the central locale, but they all tie back to florida in some way. like in fates and furies, groff's writing is stunning: she describes wonderfully without oversharing; she evokes setting without boring us; and she delivers poignant messages without being heavy-handed.
this is a book with an AESTHETIC