I’ve read that the Florida Man archetype is due in large part to police blotters being unrestricted in that state compared to others, but I have to say, it really seems like Florida is the USA’s very own Night Vale. I just reviewed The Orchid Thief and said it was basically Tiger King as written by the New Yorker; this is Tiger King mixed with Say Anything as written by Us Weekly.
We find Victoria Fedden eight months pregnant and staying with her mother while her own home is being renovated, when the DEA knocks on the door to arrest her stepfather and mother. The memoir is as much about their unconventional life as it is Victoria’s wrestling with flawed family as she begins her own.
Colorful characters abound including former madams, movie producers, reality tv stars, but ultimately the most interesting part of the book for me was Fedden trying to establish whether her mother was the monster pump-and-dump stock mastermind the federal government was accusing her of, or a woman who rose from humble means by being clever but got manipulated into pushing junk stocks by the misfits she surrounds herself with.
I wanted more of the mother/daughter relationship, more of the Say Anything dynamic the book hints at but doesn’t lean into. Fedden spends a lot of time discussing her biological father’s side of the family to the book’s detriment; I care less about her cousins and more about her mother and stepfather, whether their exploitation of the market rose to criminal, and how a woman who grew up poor with a child in tow ended up with the seediest of Florida in cheap splendor. It could have taken this book from pleasant to great, but into the resale pile this goes.