FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD
WINNER OF THE STORY PRIZE
ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
From the universally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Furies and Matrix
Florida is a "superlative" book (Boston Globe), "frequently funny" (San Francisco Chronicle), "brooding, inventive and often moving" (NPR Fresh Air) --as Groff is recognized as "Florida's unofficial poet laureate, as Joan Didion was for California." (Washington Post)
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Under its theme-park surface, Florida can be a strange, dangerous place—a beauty and menace that novelist Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) captures in this stunning short story collection about various characters living in her adopted home state. There's a college dropout who descends into homelessness after a breakup; a pair of young sisters left to fend for themselves on a tropical island; and a woman who sees her frustrating life (and neighbors) more clearly while running at night. Groff’s complicated characters are responsible for getting themselves in these pickles, but we love her compassionate portrayals of them. Her stories illuminate—often hilariously—the power of human resilience.
Ferocious weather and self-destructive impulses plague the characters in this assured collection, the first from Groff (Fates and Furies) since 2009's Delicate Edible Birds. In "Above and Below," a grad student loses her university funding and spirals into homelessness. The solo vacationer in "Salvador" one of three stories set outside Florida waits out a raging storm with a menacing shopkeeper who, after the harrowing night, "smelled of wet denim and sweated-out alcohol and sour private skin." Groff's descriptions shimmer with precision: in "Eyewall," at the onset of a hurricane that a hallucinating woman endures alone, "the lake goosebumped" and "the house sucked in a shuddery breath." On a family getaway to a cheerless cabin in the claustrophobic "The Midnight Zone," a woman notes "how the screens at night pulsed with the tender bellies of lizards." That story is one of five to feature an unnamed fretful mother and novelist who, in "Yport," has dragged her two young sons to France while she researches Guy de Maupassant. "Their world is so full of beauty," she says, fearing for the boys' future, "the last terrible flash of beauty before the darkness." A number of the stories hit similar tonal notes (pessimism threatens to sink a few of them), but Groff's skillful prose, self-awareness, and dark humor leaven the bleakness, making this a consistently rewarding collection.
Great collection of stories, though I feel the first half or three-fifths or so is much stronger. Or maybe it was the recurring themes that lost my interest towards the end, probably because I didn’t give much pause between stories before continuing as I normally like to do with short stories.
Still very good, enough to want to check out what else she has done.
A beautiful collection where the characters and their worlds are efficiently developed. Really atmospheric and cinematic. Loved it!
W O W
What a fantastic book. I rarely write a review, usually I stick to star ratings if I do want to add my two cents. BUT this book blew my mind, it’s a collection of such well-thought-of, unique characters connected by one “thing,” Florida. It was unexpected and has led me to read some earlier works by the author.