Florida

Florida

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 sec...

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Title:Florida
Author:Lauren Groff
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Florida Reviews

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    These stories feel to me like a continuation of St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (high praise from me as this remains my favorite short story collection), where Florida remains wild and unsettling and the people managing to live there have some of the same traits. There are also themes of missing parents, negligent/tired mothers, excessive drinking and other escapes, and infidelities that seem tucked away between paragraphs for the careful reader to notice and connect.

    These stories feel to me like a continuation of St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (high praise from me as this remains my favorite short story collection), where Florida remains wild and unsettling and the people managing to live there have some of the same traits. There are also themes of missing parents, negligent/tired mothers, excessive drinking and other escapes, and infidelities that seem tucked away between paragraphs for the careful reader to notice and connect. I'm almost glad the temperature here is approaching 90 with high humidity because it matched the reading experience!

  • Rebecca

    Two major, connected threads in this superb story collection are ambivalence about Florida, and ambivalence about motherhood. There’s an oppressive atmosphere throughout, with environmental catastrophe an underlying threat. Set-ups vary in scope from almost the whole span of a life to one scene. A dearth of named characters emphasizes just how universal the scenarios and emotions are. Groff’s style is like a cross between Karen Russell’s

    and Cormac McCarthy’s

    , and her une

    Two major, connected threads in this superb story collection are ambivalence about Florida, and ambivalence about motherhood. There’s an oppressive atmosphere throughout, with environmental catastrophe an underlying threat. Set-ups vary in scope from almost the whole span of a life to one scene. A dearth of named characters emphasizes just how universal the scenarios and emotions are. Groff’s style is like a cross between Karen Russell’s

    and Cormac McCarthy’s

    , and her unexpected turns of phrase jump off the page.

    The narrator of “The Midnight Zone,” staying with her sons in a hunting camp 20 miles from civilization, ponders the cruelty of time and her failure to be sufficiently maternal, while the woman in “Flower Hunters” is so lost in an eighteenth-century naturalist’s book that she forgets to get Halloween costumes for her kids. A few favorites of mine were “Ghosts and Empties,” in which the narrator goes for long walks at twilight and watches time passing through the unwitting tableaux of the neighbors’ windows; “Eyewall,” a matter-of-fact ghost story; and “Above and Below,” in which a woman slips into homelessness – it’s terrifying how precarious her life is at every step.

    feels innovative and terrifyingly relevant. Any one of its stories is a bracing read; together they form a masterpiece.

    (I reviewed this for the May 30th

    “Book Wars” column.)

  • Marchpane

    I’ve never visited Florida, but I do live in a similar climate so this setting, while foreign, felt more familiar than exotic to me. The heat and humidity, lush foliage, abundant wildlife mainly of the pointy-toothed kind, houses built on stumps with ceiling fans and sleepouts in concession to the weather – all are recognisable and skilfully evoked here. Groff’s prose style is impeccable, yet it seems so effortless.

    Several of the stories in

    toy with the creeping fear that arises when w

    I’ve never visited Florida, but I do live in a similar climate so this setting, while foreign, felt more familiar than exotic to me. The heat and humidity, lush foliage, abundant wildlife mainly of the pointy-toothed kind, houses built on stumps with ceiling fans and sleepouts in concession to the weather – all are recognisable and skilfully evoked here. Groff’s prose style is impeccable, yet it seems so effortless.

    Several of the stories in

    toy with the creeping fear that arises when we remember that the natural world can never be fully tamed – whether because of natural disasters or the unseen presence of a lurking man-eater – as well as the more modern fear of being ‘out of range’ ie, cut off and isolated in some way.

    Florida pervades this collection in subtler ways too, with the thick, stifling air of a humid day translating to an oppressive atmosphere of middle-class malaise. Groff’s characters behave in similar ways even when the locale changes (one story is set in Brazil, two in France), and it’s hard sometimes not to feel like these are all variations on the same woman, suffocating slowly on her own life.

    Generally, I prefer when authors use the short story format as an opportunity to take risks, to play with the form and ideas in ways that couldn’t sustain a longer book. The stories should feel fully-formed and self-contained, not like a sample chapter or the embryonic beginnings of a novel-that-never-was. The two interludes in France (

    , and

    ) felt like the latter and as such, a bit unsatisfying for me.

    The most memorable piece was

    , about a young academic’s slide into homelessness. Brilliant and haunting and brimming with the kind of writing that can conjure an indelible image with a single sentence. Also terrific were

    , about a woman waiting out a destructive hurricane alone in her house, and

    , about two very young girls trying to survive on an island after the adults disappear.

  • Hannah

    Any book called “Florida” needs to be infused by a thorough sense of place and Lauren Groff does just that. I have been a fan since LOVING Fates and Furies a few years back and have been meaning to pick up more of her books and this very strong collection of short stories has cemented her place in my heart.

    While not every story is set in Florida, Groff’s protagonists all have a connection to that place, a connection they sometimes strain against and sometimes welcome. Her protagonists are women,

    Any book called “Florida” needs to be infused by a thorough sense of place and Lauren Groff does just that. I have been a fan since LOVING Fates and Furies a few years back and have been meaning to pick up more of her books and this very strong collection of short stories has cemented her place in my heart.

    While not every story is set in Florida, Groff’s protagonists all have a connection to that place, a connection they sometimes strain against and sometimes welcome. Her protagonists are women, depressed and difficult and wonderfully flawed women, often mothers with a difficult and believable relationship to motherhood. I loved the way these women are allowed to be difficult while Groff shines an unflinching spotlight on them and their flaws and the way they are suffocating in their own skin. I adore that theycan be unpleasant while ultimately staying sympathetic. I do wish this unpleasantness did not always also show itself in a disdain for their own and other bodies. Once I noticed that I could not unsee it. I would have liked there to be more variety in their deepest flaws because as it is the fixation on (often overweight) bodies feels unkind and unnecessary.

    Lauren Groff is in perfect command of her language; her sentences are sharp in the way that I like them to be in realistic short fiction (comparisons to Roxane Gay came to mind here and that is obviously one of the highest compliments I can give a short story writer). The stories are meticulously structured and surprising while her perfect tone is recognizable in all of them.

    Now, excuse me while I buy everything else she has ever written.

    I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review.

  • PattyMacDotComma

    Florida. Hot, sticky, treacherous, or as one character says

    I have spent time there, and I now live in a similar climate in Australia, so I can easily imagine myself in many of these stories.

    Florida. Hot, sticky, treacherous, or as one character says

    I have spent time there, and I now live in a similar climate in Australia, so I can easily imagine myself in many of these stories.

    The Florida storms are horrific and frightening and wonderfully described. Standing next to the edge of a sinkhole in the rain must be terrifying, too. Climate change gets more than a passing mention in a few stories, because Florida, of course, is already being inundated by rising seas and hit by heavy storms.

    One woman has exhausted her best friend’s patience with her constant worries about the future to the point that the friend has asked to take a break from her. She just wishes she could take a break from herself!

    Most of the main characters are of a youngish or early middle-age group, although there is one in particular who worried about becoming what is often referred to a ‘woman of a certain age’. She had rented an apartment in Salvador for a two-week escape from caring for her elderly mother. Her guilt-ridden sisters paid for her holiday every year, so she goes to live it up.

    I’d be happy with “handsomely middle-aged”, but then I’m not trying to party hearty, fitting in a year’s worth of escapades into a couple of weeks. Poor Helena.

    There’s no question that Groff is a good writer. I think if I’d read any of these stories separately in

    or other publications where her writing appears, I’d have seriously enjoyed them. As it is, I found them repetitive and unrelentingly dismal.

    From the woman who goes running to escape – her husband, her kids, the nightly chores of bath and bed (or maybe life itself) – to the woman who takes her two little boys to France to escape Florida, with its storms, snakes and deadly creatures in the dark. There is a lot of bemoaning their condition and a lot of drinking of wine. Bottle after bottle, drunk alone.

    I felt as if all these women could be summed up by the one who took her little boys overseas, hoping to enjoy a voyage of self-discovery.

    Dispirited is how I felt most of the time while reading this, and annoyed, because it is obvious to me that this is someone whose writing I’d enjoy, but not about women like this who all seem to be slightly different but equally miserable versions of each other. I waited a few days to write this, and I have to admit I find it hard to remember any of them separately. They’ve all melded together, single, married, rich or poor.

    I will definitely look for Groff’s highly acclaimed first book, though.

    Thanks to NetGalley and Random House / William Heinemann for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.

  • Emily May

    Snakes, gators, swamps and storms form the backdrop of these exquisitely human stories.

    I have to say I enjoyed

    so much more than

    . Groff's writing style is dense and wordy, metaphorical and poetic and - sometimes - exhausting. Reading her full-length novel was a chore, but for me at least,

    . Small, hard-hitting snippets of lives that still make you feel emotionally-drained, but al

    Snakes, gators, swamps and storms form the backdrop of these exquisitely human stories.

    I have to say I enjoyed

    so much more than

    . Groff's writing style is dense and wordy, metaphorical and poetic and - sometimes - exhausting. Reading her full-length novel was a chore, but for me at least,

    . Small, hard-hitting snippets of lives that still make you feel emotionally-drained, but also thoughtful and satisfied.

    The natural wonders and dangers of Florida play into almost all these stories. A snake devotee meets his end in the wilderness, at the hands of his life's passion. A stressed mother of two boys is injured in a literal cabin in the woods. Two abandoned children fight against starvation.

    It's a book about people - often women and mothers, but not always - becoming unmoored and losing their way. The opening story is about a woman who takes to walking at night to calm her recently-acquired propensity for yelling. During these strolls, she observes her neighbors through their windows, unveiling pockets of their lives in punchy descriptions. It's amazing how much you can learn just by watching people.

    For the most part, the stories seem to be narrating a series of events in intricate detail, observing nature and moments between people. But then, once in a while, Groff delivers a perfect line that captures a widespread thought or fear, tapping deep into the human psyche and offering insight.

    CW: Child abuse/neglect; rape (non-graphic); general anxiety/depression.

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  • Katie

    If these stories are anything to go by Lauren Groff is almost comprehensively disillusioned with men. Men in these stories are either absent, inept, in another world or downright threatening. The last story - and by far the least successful - goes the whole hog and deploys Guy de Mauspassant to paint a thoroughly irksome and depressing portrait of masculinity.

    As a Brit one tends to forget how many deadly creatures there are in the US. The most scary threat we face from the natural world here is

    If these stories are anything to go by Lauren Groff is almost comprehensively disillusioned with men. Men in these stories are either absent, inept, in another world or downright threatening. The last story - and by far the least successful - goes the whole hog and deploys Guy de Mauspassant to paint a thoroughly irksome and depressing portrait of masculinity.

    As a Brit one tends to forget how many deadly creatures there are in the US. The most scary threat we face from the natural world here is perhaps a bee sting. Groff's Florida is teeming with aligators, snakes, wild cats, bears. And then there's the murderous weather. All the stories in Florida are about lonely nameless women stranded close to the heart of darkness. There's a constant sense - the pollution and corruption everywhere, the wild weather - that Armageddon isn't far away. It's a gloomy vision. But the writing, as you'd expect, is fabulously alive with vitality and eloquence.

    Were I an editor I would have omitted the last and longest story. For me it spoilt this otherwise riveting collection of thematically linked stories. It wasn't very well written and it lacked the subtlety of the other stories. Strange that the only story about a novelist proved to be the weakest. If there's one subject a novelist ought to be able to make compelling it's her own profession but oddly Groff's novelist was never convincing. And the anti-male propaganda was over the top. It's the stories that are actually set in Florida that are the best.

    I wonder if there exists a collection of short stories by anyone (Chekhov?) where the quality is maintained throughout. And I'm not sure it's a good idea to place the worst story last. By the time you come to review you have the disappointing final stories uppermost in your mind. A better trick would be to insert the worst stories in the middle and end with a cracker. I probably would have given this five stars if the order had been changed. After all, you expect a little tension to disappear in the middle of the novel but if it ends well you forget.

    I was left feeling women need love more than men do. Now I'm wondering if that's true.

  • Esil

    3+ stars

    I loved Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. I thought the writing was absolutely brilliant and the story and characters were really original. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on Florida, which is Groff’s latest short story collection. Unfortunately, I can’t rave about the stories in the same way I raved about Fates and Furies. I recognize her talented writing, but there was a flat clever feel to her stories that made it hard for me to feel engaged. Most of the stories focused on wome

    3+ stars

    I loved Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. I thought the writing was absolutely brilliant and the story and characters were really original. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on Florida, which is Groff’s latest short story collection. Unfortunately, I can’t rave about the stories in the same way I raved about Fates and Furies. I recognize her talented writing, but there was a flat clever feel to her stories that made it hard for me to feel engaged. Most of the stories focused on women, often with young children, often in Florida, often with distant husbands, often dark, and all struggling with internal personal turmoil. Some stories were definitely better than others. There was one set during a wind storm in Florida, with a woman alone at home with her two boys that really got my attention. And she really captures the nuances of mothers’ love for young children. There’s a creepy story about two young girls left alone on an island. But, overall, these stories didn’t have me particularly excited. And I must also warn that it’s definitely not a book for who are afraid of snakes. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Dianne

    Here's the thing - I really do love Groff's writing. These short stories are no exception; she is a master craftsman. She paints so well with her words and phrasing. It's just that.....I don't do so well with "dark," and all eleven of these stories are pretty dark. I don't think Lauren Groff likes Florida very much!

    Here's what I took away from this collection:

    Here's the thing - I really do love Groff's writing. These short stories are no exception; she is a master craftsman. She paints so well with her words and phrasing. It's just that.....I don't do so well with "dark," and all eleven of these stories are pretty dark. I don't think Lauren Groff likes Florida very much!

    Here's what I took away from this collection:

    These are all really well articulated stories, but they are also disturbingly bleak. I was relieved to be done with the book.

    A 4 for the writing, a 3 for how much I "liked" it. If Goodreads allowed it, I would give this a 3.5, but rounding down to a 3 because I just didn't "really like" it. I'm spending two weeks in Florida in October. That gives me just over 3 months to shake this off!

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