I don’t generally read a lot of short story collections. When I do, I prefer the ones that have some kind of thread that tie them together. This book fit that particular bill.
While each of the stories in this collection have something to do with the state of Florida, the thread that I found the most intriguing was parenthood. What does it mean to parent? How much of one’s identity is tied up in the role of parent? Is there a limit to what can and should be personally sacrificed for your children OR parents?
Groff sets her stories, for the most part, in a hot and sticky world full of snakes, panthers and unpredictable, destructive weather. Here, neglected sisters must be their own saviors. An abandoned son learns what it means to be a husband and parent. An adult daughter lives her own life one month a year while the remaining eleven months are spent caring for her ailing mother.
Interspersed throughout the stories, is a recurring character referred to only as “the Mother”. With her, Groff offers a startlingly honest look at the frustrations and ennui of parenting. This character is novel worthy and I would love to spend a book’s worth of time on just her story.
The heat and unique and varied landscape of Florida is a great backdrop for examining these different parental relationships. As varied as the landscape, loving and caring for children isn’t universally the same. Whether in the swamp or in the tidy xeriscaped suburbs, not every parent is a natural nurturer. Not every parent can keep you safe from the dangerous creatures that lurk just outside.