Florida (2018) by Lauren Groff was strongly recommended to me by my boyfriend. He was surprised I hadn’t heard of it, and I probably should have. It was a National Book Award Finalist and on NPR’s Best Books of 2018 List. I read the first part of the first story on his iPad and was interested enough to read the rest of the book.
Short stories are not my go-to. Most of the time I have a hard time connecting to the characters before the next story begins and I have to start all over. I found some of these stories by Groff pretty interesting and some pretty challenging. Most were quite dark, and I had some problems relating to the characters. After at least a couple of the stories, I felt disturbed and wondered what the point of it was. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Obviously, Groff is a talented writer, and some of these stories will definitely stay with me. In fact, I might get more out of them if I read them again. However, something kept me from feeling really connected to most of these stories.
I find reviewing short stories challenging. So, instead of sweeping generalizations and discovering trends, I’m writing a short blurb on each–mostly so I can remember them if I come back to this.
Ghosts and Empties – a woman walks through her gentrifying neighborhood at night to escape from the rage she can feel stuck at home with her husband and children. It seems to focus on how things change with time. I liked this one.
At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners – Jude was born in the swamp with a snake-hunting father who worked for the University. His father drove his mother away after the war. Jude escaped, but moved back to the same house with his wife. I wanted to know more about Jude’s mother in this story.
Dogs Go Wolf – two young girls are left alone to survive on a small island. It is very vague when it comes how this all came about. I was frustrated by this lack of detail and couldn’t quite understand the point of it.
The Midnight Zone – a woman is staying at a cabin in the woods with her two children. She falls and hits her head, and they spend a night in the cabin with her injured. Again, I didn’t quite understand the point of this one. I also couldn’t understand the woman’s fear of the panther in the area.
Eyewall – a woman decides to stay alone at her home during a hurricane. She is visited by her ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, and father as the storm goes on. I found this one interesting but weird.
For the God of Love, For the Love of God – Amanda and Jennifer (Genevieve) are old school friends from very different circumstances. Meeting in France with their husbands, and often seen from Genevieve’s son, Leo’s, perspective. I was very interested in these characters and could have read much more about them.
Salvador – Helena rented an apartment in Salvador for the one month that she gets off from taking care of her ailing mother. She has an odd relationship with the shop owner across the street. She is both afraid of his actions and his judgments, but sometimes feels sorry for him and wonders about her own judgments. It feels like a very honest, uncomfortable, and awkward relationship. This one had me responding viscerally and really thinking about the two characters.
Flower Hunters – a woman on Halloween sits at home by herself while her husband takes the kids out. I got a little tired of this woman’s angst, but it also had the most quotable lines for me. “You love humanity almost too much, but people always disappoint you.” (162) “She would take a break from herself, too, but she doesn’t have that option.” (167) “Surely, in the history of humanity, she is not the only one to feel like this.” (168)
Above and Below – a woman who was in graduate school loses her position and becomes homeless. Her life becomes worse as she loses more and more; sometimes seeing people from her old life. This woman’s spiral downward is catching.
Snake Stories – a woman finds another woman who has just been raped on her running route. She tries to help her, but she disappears when the woman returns with the police. There’s a lot going on here, but it wasn’t my favorite.
Yport – mother takes her two sons with her to Yport, France to research a writer she loves Guy de Maupassant. This was a very dark vacation with cold weather and a creeping feeling of danger and isolation. I found it rather difficult to read.
You can find all of my reviews in my blog.