Book Reviews Reviews

Florida by Lauren Groff

If I had to describe Florida in one word, it would be hallucinatory.

It is wild, lonely, dark as can be, and humid with existential dread. 

I haven’t read such an engrossing and disquieting collection of short stories in a long time. The stories are simultaneously abstract and alive and covered in Spanish Moss. The language is as glittering and feral as the landscape; Groff’s command of the poetry inherent in the written word is hypnotic. 

I can’t remember the last time I underlined so many lines, whole passages, wishing I had written them.

Snakes, sinkholes, natural disaster, wild animals and the threat of global warming are all outward manifestations of her character’s internal fears, the lurking dangers of the human mind, which to them, are less frightening than what is going on inside. 

Florida’s suffocating landscape is a projection of this interiority. They don’t just live in it; it lives in them.

These characters are unmoored. They give themselves over to swamps and forests and torrential downpours, sometimes literally on a suicide mission.

The book explores infidelity, fear of motherhood and domesticity, the juxtaposition of poverty and suburban complacence, abandonment, homelessness, the apathy that comes from heartbreak. It could be argued as an exploration of mental illness. Things happen to us. There are forces beyond our control. 

Each story leaves us with something as subtle and unanswered as life. This might not be a book for everyone.

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