by Lauren Groff

Hardcover, 2018

Call number





Riverhead Books (2018), Edition: 1st Edition, 288 pages


'Floridaisa magnificent collection, executed withtremendous depth and precision, unsettling in the best possible way.Lauren Groff is a virtuoso.'Emily St John Mandel, author of Station Eleven 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 centre- 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, Floridais a magnificent achievement.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member EBT1002
I would give this collection of short stories 6 stars if I could. Lauren Groff's voice is impeccable. Her characters are rich and engaging and real and her descriptions of the landscape are vivid and poetic. I kept rereading passages just to savor the flow of the words and the brilliance of her images and metaphors. Groff explores themes of fear, loneliness, courage, and love with empathy but also with unflinching honesty. Storms play a large role in her stories, each of which is either set or anchored in the swampy, humid, bug- and snake-infested palmetto and oak hummocks of central Florida. Some of the storms are near hurricanes, some are simply the drama of family life. Alternating stories center on an unnamed mother of two young sons, a cynical and almost-bitter woman who continues to try to find a sense of belonging and hope, for her beloved boys if not for herself. This thread of connectivity running through the series of stories provides an unusual and satisfying grounding for the reader.

I grew up in the part of Florida where Groff sets her characters and, while she perhaps ignores some of the more charming aspects of the area, she nonetheless captures its cultural and environmental nuances. I simply loved this collection. Absolutely recommended.
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LibraryThing member lisapeet
Good but not knock-my-socks-off good, partly because the tone was so similar throughout—an explicit, existential dread that derives from being a woman, a mother, a wife, a Floridian, with guest appearances by snakes, hurricanes, and that SOB (apparently) Guy de Maupassant. The writing is strong, but I would have liked to see Groff use her powers to conjure up a little more variety within the collection, even a themed one. I will say, though, she does a damn good job writing about mother love for small boys.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cariola
I've enjoyed Lauren Groff's novels and was very much looking forward to this collection of short stories.. Let me begin by saying that Groff has done an excellent job of creating the environment of Florida. She has done it so well, in fact, that I know that I will never want to live there (nor likely visit either). Oppressive heat and humidity by day, surprisingly chilly nights, swamp dwellers, sinkholes, Spanish moss, hurricanes, tangled vines, transplanted Northerners, drug dealers, drifters, grifters, illegal immigrants, gators, lizards, mosquitos, and a plethora of snakes (even in the toilets): not my idea of home. No wonder the main character in the final story flies off to France with her two children--and yet she chooses a place almost as unpleasant as she conducts research for a novel about the unpleasant man who lived there, Guy de Maupassant.

The stories are, for the most part, female-centric: the protagonists (if we can call them that) are mostly discontented mothers (generally of boys, as another reviewer notes), and there is indeed a sense of sameness about them. Perhaps they are a bit autobiographical, or perhaps they are based on sketches and notes for another novel. But I think the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere that Groff creates is intentional; it's the framework on which the collection is built, and Groff's marvelous writing carries it through, in all its bleakness. Who else would look at the sun and see "yellow wool," a perfect metaphor that works on more than one of the senses?

So, beautifully crafted, but, yes, bleak. Don't read this if you're feeling rather down; it will only take you deeper. In the bleakest of these bleak stories, a young woman leaves graduate school and her job as an English instructor to live in her car, sneaking into clubs and public libraries to get a wash, eating out of dumpsters, getting kicked off beaches for parking after hours, and just when you think it can't get any worse, it does--again and again. I don't think I've ever felt so depressed after finishing a short story. And I have to credit Groff's writing for moving me that much. Read Florida and appreciate it as art. You'll be carried away--just not quite to the paradise that the Sunshine State portrays in its promotional material.
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LibraryThing member msf59
“Florida is mold, feral cats, snakes, bugs, humidity, rot, spanish moss, vines, gators, sinkholes, homelessness, tent cities, termites, mosquitos, hurricanes, lizards, panthers, "a damp and dense tangle," bleaching sun, dread and heat...”

“What had been built to seem so solid was fragile in the face of time because time is impassive, more animal than human. Time would not care if you fell out of it. It would continue on without you.”

Reading through this collection of stories, it quickly becomes clear that Groff has conflicted feelings about the Sunshine State, her current state of residence. These are dark tales, mostly set in Florida, with women or children dealing with difficult issues and trying to face down personal or natural threats.
Not every story sings, but most do and the writing is uniformly strong and well-paced. If you have not read Groff, this might be a good place to start.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This short story collection is just as well-written and vital as her novels. Lauren Groff is the queen of suburban fears, of women, mothers, who are drawn to the risks of the outside because they are stifled in their homes, with their children and husbands, and by their love. The most striking of the eleven stories take place outside the snake-ridden university town of Gainesville, in Salvador, where a woman alone almost perishes in a hurricane; and in Yport, a French town where a mother's her focus is her research on Guy DeMaupassant, who, despite her decade of research on him, turns out to be utterly repulsive. Compulsively readable, there are flashes of humor and horror, and her writing flows like Class III rapids, moderately difficult and with the potential for disaster. Not much is quotable because entire stories are deserving of big pink highlighting. I don't know another writer to offer up in comparison, she's just that singular. But if you hated Fates and Furies (or just the second half), skip this.

Quotes: "For years at a time I was good at only the things that interested me, and since all that interested me were my books and my children, the rest of life had sort of inched away. My husband had to be the one to make up for the depths of my lack."
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LibraryThing member Capybara_99
Lauren Groff is one of the best contemporary writers of sentences. Her work is always worth reading for her prose (among other virtues).
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Florida, Lauren Groff author and reader
Generally, I always read a book or listen to a book, to its conclusion. Sometimes the reader can even make a book I don’t love, one I will listen to anyway, hoping for some redeeming feature, but this one, read by the author, made me give up after listening to more than two thirds of it. I was surprised by my reaction to the book, so I looked into other reviews and found that mine is in the minority. Usually, I check out many, including Amazon’s reviews, after I have written down my thoughts, but because of their change in policy, requiring purchases of a certain amount before a “free review” can be posted, there were fewer from more ordinary readers than I expected. Most of the professional reviews are very positive and I had the thought that there might be a bit too much honor among thieves. Perhaps, however, the print book is better. I found the author’s reading of this book disappointing. I thought that water would boil faster and constantly had the urge to nudge her to increase her speed. I also felt that she was too close to the tales to tell them without over emoting and being somewhat melodramatic in her presentation. Sometimes, my attention waned.
As a disclaimer, let me declare that I live in Florida for part of the year, so my feelings may be a bit defensive. I do not find it as formidable, dark and or threatening a place as the characters in Groff’s stories do, or perhaps, as she herself does, since she lives there, as well. I actually find Florida a pleasant place to live in, with many nice people from varied backgrounds who enjoy the year round sunshine. It makes most people happy and they smile much of the time.
The author’s stories make Florida sound like a snake pit filled with desperate people who don’t seem stable or fit, kind or welcoming to strangers. They seem to be shallow people who make foolish choices that often go awry or backfire entirely. Every story involves some kind of a threatening situation. Each character or setting harbored some kind of menace. There seemed to be danger lurking everywhere, as in the weather, the people, the communities, the schools, the families, and even the animals; she left no stone unturned regarding injustice and inequity. It felt like she was trying to say whatever could go wrong, would go wrong.
My Florida experience is much happier and is filled with more sunshine than clouds and danger. Although the author was not political in her stories, there is a subtle indication that many of the issues included in the liberal agenda were failing in the state of Florida. The emphasis on hurricanes seems to portray the state as suffering from the devastating effects of climate change. There is a stress on income inequality in some of the stories, and of course, there are immigration issues and racism in many places. Children are abused and abandoned; communities are gentrified, which locks out the very people who now live there happily. She seems to prefer decaying communities for their diversity, regardless of the danger in some, to what she portrays as “white” gated communities which she seems to scorn for their safety and lack of diversity. It felt as if she thought that the Occupy Movement and others like it, with their drugs, crime and rape, are a positive influence on a community, while upward mobility only points out income disparity and is negative, rather than something we all should aspire to instead, as a positive move.
Although I was really looking forward to this book, having enjoyed Fates and Furies, I just could not complete it. There were snakes lurking everywhere, dangerous storms were always brewing, hate hid behind many doors, many men portrayed had lurid thoughts about women, and the women seemed to be loose and irresponsible with their children and their morals. Even the dogs were mean!
There were so many stories that were rife with danger, either real or imaginary, that I was turned off because of the overriding feeling of bleakness. Perhaps the author was intending to show the way the Yin and the Yang could merge, altering our behavior to reach some kind of a better balance in society, but she seems to have leaned too far to the dark side to accomplish that, for me.
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LibraryThing member ecataldi
This was an excellent short story collection, there wasn't a dud in the bunch! I thoroughly enjoyed all eleven stories, each of which had ties to Florida in one way or another; whether it was a setting, a hometown, a memory, etc. Florida loomed in the background of these taut tales. From surviving a hurricane while drunk and hallucinating to overcoming a childhood surrounded by snakes and an abusive father to a mother forgetting to prepare for Halloween, these stories are expertly crafted and executed. Each story is a little dark, has some seedy elements, and some very real characters, all in all very Florida-eqsue. A wonderful collection, I would love to read more short stories by Lauren Groff. It takes extreme talent to build characters, setting and plot in a few short pages but she does it exceedingly well!… (more)
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I've always liked Lauren Groff's novels, but not loved them, but I did love her collection of short stories, Florida. The stories here are bleak and largely unhappy, ironic for a collection largely set in the Sunshine State. In many of the stories, the protagonist is a white woman, with a few young children and a patient husband, and the action in the stories is largely quotidian; she takes walks, she feeds her children, she feels melancholic about the state of things. Really, these stories should be self-indulgent and boring. But in Groff's hands, and more specifically, in her words, the stories are so well told, the details so precisely laid out, that the stories ended up being just about perfect.… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
I’m not a fan of short stories I only picked up this book, because I have been sick and I needed shorter stories to match my attention span. This book did the trick. It treats Florida much differently than other books about Florida. The citizens of Florida are diverse, and there is diversity in this book about a variety of Floridians all will a different point of view. Excellent writing which leaves the reader to ponder before beginning the next story in the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
Lauren Groff is an excellent writer with a great use of prose. Her descriptions of the settings in this collection of short stories really let's you feel Florida. Her protagonists are all women and her characters are always on the verge or in some dire situation. In many cases I had a hard time with situations the characters would put themselves in. Her one story about a young homeless woman frustrated me because she was healthy and college educated and seemed willing to work at a low level job. Yet she stayed homeless. Like many short stories, hers ended in an ambiguous way. If have never read Groff I would read "Fates and Furies" first and then try "Florida". All in all she is a good author and worth the time.… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Some stories that you reread years later present as both familiar and strangely new. Lauren Groff’s stories are often like that. Even if you read one on its initial publication, or came across it republished in a “Best American Short Stories” collection, you will be struck yet again by how eerily right it feels. Even when the adjectives draw you up short and get you to rethink what could have been a tired expression. Even when stories take sudden left turns, or undercut their own narrative drive by giving away something about the protagonist years ahead, or when heavy handed nature steps in to produce fear and trembling that was mostly already present in some shade of depression or hunger. It just works.

Each of the eleven stories here have a connection to Florida. Either they are set in that state, or a character is from there though currently abroad. Often the protagonist is from away, typically a northern woman who has married into a Florida family. But nearly everyone in Florida is effectively from away. Only the alligators, snakes, and the rare panther are truly native. Events, relationships, love itself, even the land here is fluid. Indeed land periodically disappears into sink holes or encroaches on former wetlands. It’s sometimes hard to find firm ground.

The majority of the stories are astonishingly good. In particular, I would mention, “The Midnight Zone,” “For the God of Love, for the Love of God,” “Dogs Go Wolf,” and “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners.” But others, such as “Ghosts and Empties,” might be even better. I was struck by “Above and Below,” a story new to me, and also by “Salvador.” But as there were no stories I didn’t enjoy it seems almost churlish to single any out.

Here, as in her novels, Groff displays a nuanced touch with metaphor. Her adjectives sometimes just startle you. It makes her writing a distinct pleasure to read. And easy to recommend.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
Better than Arcadia, not as good as Fates and Furies.

This book is short stories, in theory all having to do with Florida. Only the longest takes place in France (the narrator is from Florida), and one is in Salvador, Brazil. My two favorites were The Flower Hunters (a needy and forgetful mom struggling with her perfect best friend's "needing a break"), and Above and Below (a grad student ends up homeless after losing her funding and gaining and ex-boyfriend (and thus losing her housing) at about the same time.

Goff is very good at writing the mothers of children. Per the cover flap, she has boys herself. She can capture the fear, wonder, and love that goes into being a mom.

p. 162 "What a relief she has boys; this princess nonsense is a tragedy of multigenerational proportions.
Stop waiting for someone to save you, humanity can't even save itself! she says aloud to the masses of princesses seething in her brain" from "The Flower Hunters"
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LibraryThing member rmckeown
Lauren Groff made the long list for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, but unfortunately, her newest novel, Florida, did not make the cut. This interesting novel focuses on eleven people who live and work in and around Florida. The stories are only loosely connected, but each is interesting in its own way.

I was particularly intrigued by “At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners.” Groff writes, “Jude was born in a Cracker-style house at the edge of a swamp that boiled with unnamed species of retiles. Few people lived in the center of Florida then. Air-conditioning was for the rich, and the rest compensated with high ceilings, sleeping porches, attic fans. Jude’s father was a herpetologist at the university, and if snakes hadn’t slipped their way into their hot house, his father would have filled it with them anyway. Coils of rattlers sat in formaldehyde on the windowsills. Writhing knots of reptiles lived in the coops out back, where his mother had once tried to raise chickens. At an early age, Jude learned to keep a calm heart when touching fanged things. He was barely walking when his mother came into the kitchen to find a coral snake chasing its red and yellow tale around his wrist (13). When I was young, I had an interest in snakes, but my interest waned when I could find none in a brown stone row house in Philadelphia.

In “Eyewall,” an attempt to raise chickens had some odd results. Groff writes, “It began with chickens. They were Rhode Island Reds and I’d raised them from chicks. Though I called until my voice gave out, they’d huddled in the darkness under the house, a dim mass faintly pulsing. Fine, you ungrateful turds! I’d said before abandoning them to the storm. I stood in the kitchen at the one window I left unboarded and watched the hurricane’s bruise spreading in the west. I felt the chickens’ rising through the floorboards to pass through me like prayers” (64). Groff has a talent for bringing into sharp relief, the two- and four-legged, as well as those with no legs at all.

“Flower Hunters” ends on a peculiar note. The unnamed narrator wants to call her friend Meg, but she remembers Meg wanted to “take a break” from their relationship. Lauren writes, “Two weeks ago, she called Meg at eleven at night because she’d read an article about the coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico being covered with a mysterious whiteish slime that was killing them, and she knew enough to know that when a reef collapses, so do dependent populations, and when they go, the ocean goes” (167)

Snakes appear off and on, and here is another, “Snake Stories.” She writes, “It is strange to me, and alien in this place, and ambivalent northerner, to see how my Florida sons takes snakes for granted. My husband, digging out a peach tree that had died from climate change, brought into the house a shovel full of poisonous baby coral snakes, brightly enameled and writhing. Cook! Said my little boys, but I woke from frantic sleep that night, slapping at my sheets, sure the light pressure on my body was twining of many snakes that had slipped from the shovel and searched until they found my warmth” (206).

Lauren Groff is a writer who can easily describe a character in her stories as well as calmly describing dangerous reptiles. Florida is a story for readers who abhor snakes, as well as those who are fascinated by the scaly creatures. 5 stars.

--Chiron, 8/2/18
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LibraryThing member DonnaB317
Not usually a fan of short stories. I get too invested in the characters and then they go away...makes me sad, and these stories were no different. I got very involved with each character, each story, and then hated to have them end. Groff's writing is lyrical and beautiful, but her sketches in these short stories aren't enough for me. I want more.… (more)
LibraryThing member BillieBook
As always, Groff's prose shines. The characters in these stories, though, mostly make for unpleasant, self-absorbed company. I also think this may be a case where the author was not the best choice as narrator. Keep in mind, too, that I am not much of a short story fan, and the ambiguous endings and abrupt cut-offs here may be affecting my judgement. Not about the characters, though. They're mostly kinda awful.… (more)
LibraryThing member DKnight0918
I enjoyed the first few stories, after that I enjoyed it less and less.
LibraryThing member deeEhmm
No one does misbehaving mothers and errant children like Lauren Groff. The hard, beautiful work of human badness and goodness becomes spun gold through her pen. Florida, twisted domestic relations, smart prose that is often wisely inelegant, all the best of Lauren in this collection.
LibraryThing member muddyboy
A wonderful collection of meaty short stories many based in Florida where the author lives, Another link to the stories is hurricanes and inclement weather. What is so special about these are the vivid character development and the unique thoughtful plots. The only one that breaks the mold (weather) is Yport about a woman who travels to Paris with her two young sons (away from her husband) to do research on a writing project on writer Guy de Maupassant. This is a story of self discovery. This is a great collection.… (more)
LibraryThing member pegmcdaniel
A few months ago, I read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and didn't like it very much. In fact, I can't even remember what it was about. So I hesitated to read Florida. But since I've lived on Central Florida's Gulf Coast for nearly 25 years, I decided to read it.

This is a collection of 11 intense short stories about people, mostly women, either living in Florida or with a connection to Florida. Every bad thing about Florida is highlighted: hurricanes, mosquitoes, bugs, snakes, gators, termites, swamps, homelessness, etc. Since I am afraid of snakes, one of the stories was very creepy for me.

The female protagonists in some of the stories are not content with their role as a wife and/or mother. Throughout there is a theme of loss, grief, and loneliness. Overall, I enjoyed this book because of the Floridian atmosphere which I love. Ms. Groff's writing kept me interested even though the stories were scary because of the uncertainty that seemed to lurk everywhere!
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LibraryThing member Sbojo32
First, I didn't realize this was a collection of short stories. By the description, I thought these stories would all intersect. They don't. It's just a collection of stories, loosely based in Florida. Most of the characters are nameless, which adds to the confusion. You don't get a chance to really get to know any of them and the stories end abruptly. Nothing ties or flows; it feels like a collection of half-started stories or ideas that somehow got published.… (more)
LibraryThing member patriciau
One of the best of the year.
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
I enjoy Groff's writing style, with its surprising twists of language, and I think that she truly captured Florida in all of its humidity, swampy smells, and crawly lizards. I thought the collection had a nice variety of stories, too, rather than feeling like they were all variations on one theme.
LibraryThing member JosephCamilleri
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”.
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LibraryThing member kayanelson
Perhaps I wasn't in the mood to read this book. I usually like short stories and their ability to tell so much in so few words. It's a real art. But in Florida, I felt like I didn't know what was going on in many of the stories. Such deeply flawed and unhappy people and their thoughts in their heads just swirling around on the pages. I felt relieved to be finished so that I didn't have to read such sadness anymore.… (more)




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