Est 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 herselfMost 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 Helena was in that viscous pool of years in her late thirties when she could feel her beauty slowly departing from her She had been lovely at one time which slid into pretty which slid into attractive and now if she didn t do something major to halt the slide she d end up at handsomely middle aged which was no place at all to be 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 HelenaThere s no uestion that Groff is a good writer I think if I d read any of these stories separately in The New Yorker Magazine 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 ids 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 aloneI 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 She doesn t belong in France perhaps she never did she was always simply her flawed and neurotic self even in French Of all places in the world she belongs in Florida How dispiriting to learn this of herself 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 eually 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 uoted 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 thatI 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 muchHere s what I took away from this collection Florida is mold feral cats snakes bugs humidity rot spanish moss vines gators sinkholes homelessness tent cities termites mosuitos hurricanes lizards panthers a damp and dense tangle bleaching sun dread and heatMotherhood is something to be deeply conflicted about When in doubt drink heavilyEveryone is lonely loneliness is everwhere and ghosts surround you When lonely drink heavilyMen are predatory scum rapists abusive devious self involved OR tender and ind fathershusbands OR any combination of 3 starsI 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 islan. E 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 aliv.
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Fulfilling my 2020 goal to read at least one book each month that was given to me as a present that i haven t yet gotten around to reading because i am an ungrateful dickreview to come 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 of her books and this very strong collection of short stories has cemented her place in my heartWhile 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 variety in their deepest flaws because as it is the fixation on often overweight bodies feels unkind and unnecessaryLauren 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 themNow excuse me while I buy everything else she has ever writtenI received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Random House UK Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review The first line in Florida never left me I have somehow become a woman who yells The entire first story was one of my favorites from the collection PersonallyI ve played with manatees taken walks in the scorching heat spent beach days with our dogs witnessed thousands of dead smelly fish along the coastline and survived the panic of my daughter caught in the middle of a nasty hurricane Florida flat as a pancake with hurricanes alligators and snakes sticky hot I miss the mountains and redwoods whenever I visit Lauren Groff got me with these short storiesI didn t expect much I haven t been a goo goo fan of herMy fear is she s too brilliant for me to understand too sarcastic too cynical and simply sees the world through all that is wrong However I inda fell in love with Lauren and her stories in FloridaI m not jumping her fan band wagon just yetbut I felt something in these stories that was missing for me in Furies Lauren is a wizard with words an inventor with her sentences an artist creator and part subtle comedian These stories are dark but not without humor I can t believe I m saying this but I could easily read this again In fact I d love to want toLauren s stories spin on words creative gorgeous sentences moved me I experienced all that s wrong with the world funneled through mothers in Floridathrough their anger vulnerability but also from a place of ownership responsibility I enjoyed this bookand surprised myself The truth might be moral but it isn t always right Snakes gators swamps and storms form the backdrop of these exuisitely human storiesI have to say I enjoyed Florida so much than Fates and Furies 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 Groff seems born to write short stories Small hard hitting snip 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 Swamplandia and Cormac McCarthy s The Road and her unexpected turns of phrase jump off the pageThe narrator of The Midnight Zone staying with her sons in a hunting camp 20 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 mu.
Iles 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 ids 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 Florida feels innovative and terrifyingly relevant Any one of its stories is a bracing read together they form a masterpieceI reviewed this for the May 30th Stylist Book Wars columnSome favorite lines What had been built to seem so solid was fragile in the face of time because time is impassive animal than human Time would not care if you fell out of it It would continue on without you from The Midnight Zone The wind played the chimney until the whole place wheezed like a bagpipe from Eyewall everybody is sleeping save for the tree frogs and the sinners from Snake Stories How lonely it would be the mother thinks looking at her children to live in this dark world without them from Yport 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 elouence 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 uality 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 A collection of eleven short stories set mostly in the titular state Florida examines the inner lives of young women and mothers afflicted by malaise alcoholism and occasionally despair Abusive men neglected children unbearable storms and the southern wilderness recur throughout the collection the pieces gathered here feel like variations on the same set of themes Groff writes lush sentences 354 When she was pregnant with Jude s sister she came into the bathroom to take a cool bath one August night and without her glasses missed the three foot albino alligator her husband had stored in the bathtub The next morning she was gone Florida Hot sticky treacherous or as one character says damp dense tangle An Eden of dangerous things 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 Moving in the humidity was like forcing my way through wet silk 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 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 Ch 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 passag.
Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown NY and grew up one block from the Baseball Hall of Fame She graduated from Amherst College and has an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin Madison Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals including The Atlantic Monthly Ploughshares Glimmer Train Hobart and Five Points as well as in the anthologies Best Amer