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“Florida” by Lauren Groff

Florida by Lauren Groff

Our August 2018 Book of the Month

Our August Book of the Month is the short story collection Florida by Lauren Groff. This book of stories takes Groff’s writing skills to a fever peak. Each story builds on the power of the one that comes before until the last story bursts your heart open. The state of Florida and the gothic nature of its landscape, climate, flora and fauna are a dark metaphor for America. In these stories it may be the land of searing sunshine but that does not hide the swamps, sinkholes and snakes that are a constant presence.

The first story “Ghosts and Empties” is about a woman who yells and goes out running at night because she does not want to be a woman who yells. Groff sets us up to be not only observers but participants in this book when the narrator says, “On my nighttime walks, the neighbors’ lives reveal themselves, the lit windows domestic aquariums.” Once she brings us close, each of the eleven stories engage us in the emotional and psychological battles fought in the natural world and in the realms of our mind. Groff’s narrators play out life and death battles in the surreal reality that our world has become. A world with a shredding social fabric, a loss of safety nets, and an environment being destroyed by climate change. Florida captures the collective fear and anxiety that many Americans are feeling and is most keenly felt in the stories of mothers and their dread for the world that will be inherited by their children. The final story “Yport” has a mother as a narrator and she learns and accepts a lot about herself in this perfect ending to the collection. Among many things the mother thinks how lonely it would be to live in this dark world without her children.

Groff’s language is crisp and ‘poetic, her stories are simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, the collection inspires one to rise to the challenge of our times and not turn away from what we see but to face it head on. Art can be political and literature can change lives. Lauren Groff’s Florida is not an escapist summer read, it is a book that matters. It’s stories ask us to think about how to live our lives and offers hope as great art should.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In her thrilling new book, Lauren Groff brings 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Groff is the New York Times bestselling author of three novels, The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, and Fates and Furies, and the short story collection Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, along with five Best American Short Stories anthologies, and she was named one of Granta’s 2017 Best Young American Novelists. Lauren lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband and sons.

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