Thank you to the lovely people at Riverhead Books for my copy of Florida by Lauren Groff. All thoughts and images are my own.
Author: Lauren Groff
Genre: Eerie Short Stories
Pub date: June 5, 2018
Read if you like: All the Names They Used for God, lots and lots of snakes, really good writing.
Ok, you don’t have to like snakes to enjoy this short story collection, but you do need to be able to read about them. Groff does not shy away from including the multitudes of snakes that inhabit the bizarre universe that is Florida in this compelling collection of short stories. So, if you’re like me and snakes make your skin crawl, strap on your mental snake armor in preparation.
Snakes aside, this is a perfect short story collection, in my opinion. I went into it a huge fan of Groff – Fates and Furies was one of my favorite reads of 2017 and I’m completely obsessed with her By the Book in the NYTimes. Florida did not disappoint. The characters are impeccably well-defined in an impressively minimal amount of words. The women are hypnotically memorable – they are depressed and dark and imperfect in the most interesting way. The sense of place is strong (as it must be in a collection titled Florida) – even the stories not set in Florida have a tie to that unique state.
Florida is not a binge-read collection of short stories. Each story has a dry wit about it that feels a bit cold and distant. I read this collection throughout the month, coming back to it whenever I had the craving. My two favorite stories were the second and third stories in the collection: “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners” and “Dogs Go Wolf.” I still get chills thinking about them.
If you typically prefer literary fiction over short stories, this might be the collection for you to try. While the stories are not connected in character or plot, the presence of both Florida and women in each story gives them a sense of cohesion.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
The New York Times-bestselling author of Fates and Furiesreturns, 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.