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Florida (2018)

by Lauren Groff

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1,0766018,125 (3.8)83
Fiction. Literature. Short Stories. HTML:The bold new book from the celebrated New York Times-bestselling author of Fates and Furies.
"Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts." ??The New York Times Book Review
In her vigorous and moving new book, Lauren Groff brings her electric storytelling and intelligence to a world in which storms, snakes, and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life, but the greater threats and mysteries are of a human, emotional, and psychological nature. Among those navigating it all 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
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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
Florida has never seemed like a defined, real place to me. My early impressions of it came from my father's Pogo books, and from beautiful yet sinister storm sets in old black and white films. Then came the fight over Elián González, and hanging chads. All very interesting, but not enough to get any sort of cogent idea of the place. Pictures of elderly citizens flooding it annually in winter in their gated communities, along with real floods from hurricanes don't help.

I knew Lauren Groff's name from positive reviews on LT, so when I saw this beautiful looking book in the store, I picked it up. The glorious beast on the cover positively shimmered. The Washington Post blurb on the back cover told me that Groff "stakes her claim to being Florida's unofficial poet laureate, as Joan Didion was for California". Well, if she could write like Joan Didion, I had to read her.

There are eleven stories here, of which nine take place in Florida. While each centres around people, it is Florida that is the real protagonist. Unpredictable, menacing, there is a real sense of danger, whether in town or in the country. Feral cats, mould, rot, insects, sinkholes, torrential rain, wind, snakes, not to mention alligators: all can damage the soul as well as the body. Being alone turns to debilitating loneliness:
And now she is crying.
I'm not crying, she tells the dog, but the dog sighs deeply.
The dog needs to take a little break from her.
The dog stands and goes inside and crawls under the baby grand piano that she bought long ago from a lonely old lady, a piano that nobody plays.
A lonely old piano.
She always wanted to be the kind of person who could play the "Moonlight Sonata".
She buries her failure in this, as she buries all her failures in reading.
.
In another story, "At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners", a deaf man out rowing loses his oars and drifts helplessly.
The water thickly hid its danger, but he knew what was there. There were alligators, their knobby eyes even now watching him. He'd seen one with his binoculars from his bedroom the other day that was at least fourteen feet long. He felt it somewhere nearby now. And though this was no longer prairie, there were still a few snakes, cottonmouth, copperheads, pygmies under the leaf rot at the edge of the lake. There was the water itself, superheated until it hosted flagellates that enter the nose and infect the brain, an infinity of the minuscule eating away. There was the burning sun above and the mosquitoes feeding on his blood. There was the silence. He wouldn't swim in this terrifying mess.

Abandonment is a theme in this collection. Buildings, careers, friends, partners, parents, even children, are left behind. In the final story, "Yport", Florida itself is left behind as a woman flees summer there to research a novel about Guy de Maupassant. Normandy is a complete contrast to Florida. Even though her two children are with her, loneliness still haunts her. In the end she realizes, Solitude is danger for a working mind. We need to keep around us people who think and speak.
When we are lonely for a long time, we people the void with phantoms.
Although she adds de Maupassant said this in "Le Horla", perhaps this is Groff's message. In Florida, the phantoms are all too real.

As for me, Florida remains just as unknowable.
  SassyLassy | Nov 24, 2023 |
I really wanted to like this collection of short stories based on Florida life because of the writing alone,but it was really dull and dry. Only a hand full of stories stood out, for instance,the story about the woman with her two boys in the cabin and other about a family in France. Nothing in particular was really memorable about any of the stories and that's the problem. Nothing was distinct or unique every story had the same southern melancholy vibe that quickly became tedious overtime. The narration wasn't terrible it just lacked color or vibrancy,it was kind of monotone. Overall it wss just meh ( )
  OnniAdda | Nov 22, 2023 |
Florida by Lauren Groff is an excellent collection of random stories spanning across times periods in Florida. Most of these stories center around women and children.

These stories are all separate from one another, but are all equally beautiful. I found that I enjoyed some and couldn't be bothered with others. Like most anthology and short stories sets, there's going to be some you'll absolutely love! I found the first half of this book kept my attention far more than the latter. The very last story didn't feel like it fit in with the collection, but that's just my opinion. This book would have had a much higher rating if the very last story had been left out.

The one beautiful thing about this story is Lauren's writing. She has a way with her descriptive words and I found the style so enchanting. It pulls you in and keeps your attention. Even when the stories were a little too boring and not my taste, her writing kept me attached to the page.

Overall, I definitely suggest Lauren Groff's writing if you want something that is oddly beautiful.

Three out of five stars.

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. ( )
  Briars_Reviews | Aug 4, 2023 |
I loved this book so much that I think I want to reread it. Some of the stories hearken back to Groff's Arcadia (my previous favorite of her books), and others chart new territory entirely. The stories themselves are both domestic and exotic, and they are deeply rooted in the state I love. I'm so used to reading literary fiction that's very New York-centric, so it was both delightful and strange to recognize the city where I was born (Gainesville) as the setting for many of these stories. ( )
  beckyrenner | Aug 3, 2023 |
In “Flower Hunters”, one of the stories in this collection, an angst-ridden mother finds some solace in reading about William Bartram, an 18th century naturalist who, like her had once been “a northerner dazzled by the frenzied flora and fauna” of Florida. She takes an almost perverse pleasure in imagining her homely neighbourhood as a yet undeveloped “damp, dense tangle. An Eden of dangerous things”. The protagonist completely forgets that it’s Halloween, and, as a consequence, her two boys must make do with improvised costumes. “For the older boy, she cut eyeholes in a white sheet for an old-style ghost, though it rankled, a white boy in a white sheet, Florida still the Deep South”. That night, while the boys and their dad traipse off to a Halloween party, she stays at home, reading about Bartram, listening to the rain and worrying about the sinkhole she is pretty sure is forming and threatening to gobble up her house.

The “Florida” of the title is less of a physical, geographical setting, than a complex of feelings, ideas and associations. The images in "Flower Hunters" are quite representative of this literary place, where the genteel, civilised exterior, is constantly ambushed by the dangerous and the unexpected; where relationships are brittle and class wars are still rife; where even the nicest of persons might be monsters in disguise. Several of the tales portray natural perils which, besides being symbolic, are also quite literal. "Eyewall", a ghost-story in all but name, takes place against the backdrop of a battering hurricane. Storms are a central feature of several of the stories, panthers and alligators roam in others, whilst the Biblical association between snakes and evil is reprised in “Snake Stories”. The feeling of menace is sometimes expressed in tales which skirt the Gothic – “Dogs go Wolf” is a Florida-set (where else?) re-imagining of myths and legends of feral children.

The pull of Florida is such that even in the stories set away from the state (and from North America, even), the same feelings and fears hold sway. For the protagonist of “Salvador”, the Brazilian town is as rain-soaked as home, and equally remindful of the inadequacies of a life spent tending to a bed-ridden mother. “For the God of Love, for the Love of God” is set in France, where a Florida couple visit an old friend, now married to a Swiss baron. As relationships and fortunes collapse, the story turns into a grim comedy-of-manners which I can imagine made into a French art-house movie, perhaps a sort of darker version of Le Prénom. France is, again, the backdrop of “Yport”, which follows a mother and her two boys on a journey to the places associated with Guy du Maupassant, an author whom the mother is unenthusiastically researching. The harried mother realizes that she hates the guy – both as man and as writer – but also takes another an important lesson home with her – “of all places in the world, she belongs in Florida. How dispiriting to learn this of herself”.

To be honest, “dispiriting” is an adjective which could also fit most of the stories in the collection. There are also themes, concerns and images, which keep returning obsessively, making this an anthology to savour, rather than to read in one sitting. And yes, Florida does deserve to be “savoured”. In just a few pages, Groff can draw a character worthy of a novel, conjure a setting and a mood, surprise the reader with a flash of insight, an unexpected image. At her best, Groff can indeed give us an “Eden of dangerous things”. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
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Fiction. Literature. Short Stories. HTML:The bold new book from the celebrated New York Times-bestselling author of Fates and Furies.
"Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts." ??The New York Times Book Review
In her vigorous and moving new book, Lauren Groff brings her electric storytelling and intelligence to a world in which storms, snakes, and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life, but the greater threats and mysteries are of a human, emotional, and psychological nature. Among those navigating it all 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

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