Jane’s Pick: Florida by Lauren Groff.
It is a book of short stories – not quite magic realism…more like blurry dreams (well, more like nightmares) on top of harsh realities. Each story a new set of characters, but with underlying connections – most notably the extreme natural elements, flawed women and, of course, the State of Florida – that tie them together. All the stories aren’t set in Florida, but all have a connection to the State.
As anyone who has spent any long amount of time in Florida knows – it is both a place and a mood, and the book somehow captures the gothic darkness of the Sunshine State perfectly. The short stories contain a lot of gothic elements like storms, ghosts, and wilderness (both physical and psychological).
Each story is about the edge. Living so close to the edge that one event, one decision, one moment can topple you over, but it is also about how another pivot can bring you back from that dark place. So even though the book is dark and deals with all sorts of truly unpleasant events and characters – there is also humor and sympathy toward characters and their flaws.
Groff’s writing style is perfect for short stories – she is able to poetically capture a story arc in only a few pages. The stories in Florida quickly pull you in and then deliver a slow burn all within a handful of pages. The stories stay with me long after I have closed the book.