In brief: Short stories set in and around Florida.
The good: Very detailed and very evocative setting.
The not-so-good: Is Florida really that creepy?
Why I chose it: Heard great stuff about Lauren Groff’s writing.
Publisher: Windmill Books (Penguin)
Setting: Usually Florida
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Florida. To this Australian, it means Disneyworld, hurricanes and beaches. But what I took away from Lauren Groff’s collection of short stories is that Florida is full of creepy things. Think alligators, snakes and hurricanes. Then add in hot, hot humidity. This collection is definitely not going to draw the tourists to Florida, but it does evoke an incredible sense of setting. Florida feels at times unsettled, and cloistered or oppressed in others.
Like the setting, the characters are often running away from something. Sometimes it’s something simple, like trying not to be a shouty mum. Other times, it’s trying to escape something more sinister like a snake or even a family member. The stories are written very well – Groff can construct a world in just a few words. (She reminds me in that way of Curtis Sittenfeld’s writing). Setting is conjured so quickly and becomes an unspoken character is each of the stories. The characters are all very distinct, even when they are nameless like the ‘not-shouty mum’ and the woman who takes one holiday a year from caring from her mum. Family is also a strong theme, with many of the characters escaping theirs for respite but finding that they love them more than they think.
The stories aren’t overly joyous or happy, so this is not a collection to read when you want light entertainment. Yet they are strangely fascinating, amongst their deadly creatures and tense emotional moments.